Geoffrey Pyatt, America’s ambassador to Ukraine, said the US will not recognize Crimea’s referendum on March 16. Crimeans will decide if they want to stay an autonomous republic of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation.
The ambassador said the White House was unbending in its view that Crimea was part of Ukraine. He said that in the runup to Sunday’s referendum “gangs of pro-Russian thugs” were roaming the peninsula, beating up activists and creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Without mentioning Moscow by name, Pyatt said there was also an “active campaign right now” to stir up dissension and division across the country.
If Russia chooses to use the referendum to justify their occupation of Crimea the US will take more action against Russia. British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also agreed to stronger sanctions. President Obama already implemented visa bans on Russians and Crimeans who are viewed as a threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty. The US stopped all trade talks and military engagements with Russia. The European Union put a visa ban on 18 people who are responsible for embezzling Ukraine state funds and they stopped all discussions of visa-free travel for Russia.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the referendum is unconstitutional and Ukraine will not give up Crimea. Yatseniuk made plans to travel to Washington, DC.
The trip would be an opportunity to reaffirm the US’s strongest support for the “new democratic Ukraine,'” its integrity and the Ukrainian people, Pyatt said. They would also discuss Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Chinese president XI Jinping talked to Obama and Merkel to push a political solution to Ukraine and Russia.
“The situation in Ukraine is extremely complex, and what is most urgent is for all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid an escalation in tensions,” China’s foreign ministry on Monday cited Xi as telling Obama.
“Political and diplomatic routes must be used to resolve the crisis,” Xi added. China had an “open attitude” towards any suggestions or proposals that could ameliorate the situation and was willing to remain in touch with all parties including the US, he said.