National Security Adviser Susan Rice said “the United States is on the side of the Ukrainian people” and wants to see democratic elections and “the opportunity for the people of Ukraine to come together in a coalition unity government” after President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled Saturday.
Rice said Sunday during an appearance on Meet the Press that it “would be a grave mistake” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene militarily in the Ukraine crisis.
She also said the United States would play a role alongside the International Monetary Fund in providing financing to aid the Ukrainian economy which she described as “very, very fragile” and in need of reform.
Events in Ukraine have moved swiftly and dramatically. An arrest warrant was issued for Yanukovich, who was blocked from leaving the country Saturday on a chartered flight. He has called his ouster a coup d’etat, but Rice said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday “he has gone…. He’s lost enormous legitimacy -- despite having been originally democratically elected – by turning on his people, by using violence in the streets against peaceful protestors, and by flouting the will of the Ukrainian people.”
The Ukrainian parliament set a new presidential election for May 25 and gave the president's powers to Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchinov, an ally of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, who was herself freed from the hospital where she’d been held since 2012. She was serving a seven-year sentence for corruption.
Rice said President Barack Obama had told Putin that the United States and Russia have a shared interest in keeping Ukraine unified and independent.
She said, “It’s not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see a country split. It’s in nobody’s interests to see violence return and the situation escalate.”
She added that “there is not an inherent contradiction between a Ukraine that has longstanding historic and cultural ties to Russia, and a modern Ukraine that wants to integrate more closely with Europe.”
Ukraine depends on Russia, its neighbor to its east, for most of its natural gas and oil supplies. Russia also has a naval base at Sebastopol in the Ukrainian province of Crimea.
Ukraine also is facing a potential sovereign debt crisis and the possibility of default. Under a Putin-Yanukovich agreement, Russia is providing $15 billion in loans to Ukraine. That deal may have been overtaken by the events of the past few days.