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WASHINGTON, March 05. /ITAR-TASS/. US President Barack Obama has called on Russia to “work with the international community to help stabilize the situation” in Ukraine - a country engulfed in political turmoil since its legitimate leader Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent uprising in February.
“We have sent a clear message that we are prepared to work with anybody if their genuine interest is making sure that Ukraine is able to govern itself,” Obama said.
A question on the issue was put to Obama after he announced the budget for the fiscal year 2015 on Tuesday. The US leader was asked to comment on the statements Russian President Vladimir Putin had made during Tuesday’s news conference on Ukraine in his residence in Novo-Ogarevo in the Moscow Region.
Putin told reporters that he believed the recent developments in the neighboring country were “an anti-constitutional coup” and “an armed seizure of power.” He added that Yanukovych remained the only legitimate Ukrainian president as no official impeachment procedure had been carried out, and added that Ukraine's parliament was “partially” legitimate.
“I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state,” Obama said.
“We have said that if, in fact, there is any evidence out there that Russian speakers or Russian natives or Russian nationals are in any way being threatened, there are ways of dealing with that through international mechanisms,” he said.
“We’re prepared to make sure that the rights of all Ukrainians are upheld. And, in fact, in conversations that we’ve had with the government in Kiev, they have been more than willing to work with the international community and with Russia to provide such assurances,” the American president said.
“The fact that we are still seeing soldiers out of their barracks in Crimea is an indication to which what’s happening there is not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, but is based on Russia seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country,” he said.
The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, on March 1 authorized the use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine "until the situation normalizes" there. But Putin told reporters Tuesday that “so far, there is no need” for such use.
Putin dismissed claims recently voiced by a number of media that Russian armed forces could have taken part in some operations in the autonomous Ukrainian republic of Crimea, where Russians constitute the majority. “These were local self-defense forces,” he said.
Ukraine is scheduled “to have elections in May,” Obama said in his speech. “Everybody in the international community should be invested in making sure that the economic deterioration that’s happened in Ukraine stops, but also that these elections proceed in a fair and free way in which all Ukrainians, including Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, are able to express their choice of who should lead them.”
When Ukrainian President Yanukovych left his official residence and then Ukraine, the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, appointed an interim head of state, set early presidential elections for May 25 and approved a new government that Russia does not recognize.
Putin said Russia would not recognize the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine “if they are held in terror similar to what we currently see in Kiev."