President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the West “will be forced to apply a cost” if Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine.
The president spoke from the Oval Office after meeting with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s acting prime minister, who said his country was ready for talks with Russia but vowed: “We will never surrender.”
They met two weeks after Russian troops fanned out from their barracks in Ukraine and seized control of the Crimean Peninsula. The people of Crimea will vote Sunday on whether to join Russia, a vote that the West considers illegitimate.
The United States has called on Russia to pull the troops back and engage in one-on-one talks with Ukraine.
Obama said: “We will continue to say to the Russian government that, if it continues on the path that it is on, then not only the United States but the international community, the European Union and others will be forced to apply a cost to Russia’s violations of international law.”
After the meeting, Yatsenyuk demanded Russian President Vladimir Putin "tear down this wall — the wall of war, intimidation and military aggression. Let's stop. Let's calm down."
Yatsenyuk also thanked the United States for supporting his people.
"Mr. President, it’s all about the freedom," he said. "We fight for our freedom. We fight for our independence. We fight for our sovereignty. And we will never surrender."
Speaking in fluent English, Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine "is and will be part of the Western world."
First published March 12 2014, 1:19 PM