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Kerry honors heroes, pledges cash, scolds Putin during brief Kyiv visit

March 5 2014, 12:14

US State Secretary John Kerry lays flowers to Ukraine's heroes from the Heavenly Hundred on March 4 in Kyiv. US State Secretary John Kerry lays flowers to Ukraine's heroes from the Heavenly Hundred on March 4 in Kyiv. In a gesture of support for Ukraine, US State Secretary John Kerry visited Kyiv on March 4, paying respect to the nation's fallen heroes, threatening Russia with new sanctions, and pledging economic support to the interim government, kyivpost.com reports.

 Kerry made his first stop at Hrushevsky Street, which has been turned into a series of memorials for the Heavenly Hundred, the 95 people who died during the revolution in Ukraine that started in November. He brought candles and roses to top up massive piles of flowers people have been bringing to the site where dozens of Ukrainians died from sniper shots on Feb. 18-20

Kerry, who said he was paying respects to these people on behalf of President Barack Obama, described the experience as “incredibly moving.”

“It was really quite remarkable, I have to tell you, to see the barricades, see the tires, see the barbed wire, see the bullet holes in street lamps, the extraordinary number of flowers, the people still standing beside a barrel with a fire to keep them warm,” he told journalists at the briefing at the end of the day.

“It was very moving, and it gave me a deep, personal sense of how closely linked the people of Ukraine are to not just Americans, but to people all across the world who today are asking for their rights, asking for the privilege to be able to live, defining their own nation, defining their futures,” Kerry said.

He also said the US was prepared to back that strive with more than just words. The US government extended $1 billion of loan guarantees to Ukraine, as well as negotiated with the government some join short-term term to stabilize Ukraine's finances, as well as a longer-term package for growth.

On March 3, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said that Ukraine was committed to “fulfill all IMF conditions.” The Fund's mission is working in Ukraine this week to assess the state of Ukraine's economy, and is expected to extend up to $15 billion under the new program when it comes though.

Kerry said that apart from a new IMF program, additional financial initiatives are being “quickly put together” by a team in Washington, and that Obama on March 3 asked the Congress, “which has been making very strong statements about support for Ukraine, to come to the table quickly with an economic package.”

He also said the US government is helping Ukraine to combat corruption and recover stolen assets, as well as resist Russia's trade wars. Kerry underscored that the current government, elected by “the most representative institution in Ukraine” at the moment, is fully legitimate and recognized by the west.

He said this government stands in huge contrast with the Russian authorities in the way it meets challenges. He said it was a government appointed with consent of people, which showed great restraint during the invasion of its territory and a amid an intimidation campaign by Russia.

“The contrast really could not be clearer:determined Ukrainians demonstrating strength through unity and a Russia government out of excuses, hiding its hand behind falsehoods, intimidation, and provocations,” Kerry said.

He also said that unless the Russian government moves towards de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, the US and its partners will be “forced to” apply additional sanctions to Russia.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin has to start off by pulling his troops in Crimea to its bases. There is an estimated 16,000 Russian troops at the Crimean peninsula, most of which have been moved over the last week.

Earlier in the day, Putin denied the presence of Russian troops in Crimea, and at the same time indicated that he might be preparing to expand its military intervention to other parts of Ukraine.

“There are lots of tools at the disposal of the president of the United States and the United States of America and other countries. But none of us want to escalate this so that it becomes the kind of confrontation where ... you’re stuck in a place that’s very hard to climb down from,” Kerry said.

State Secretary John Kerry fact-checks the Russian government's claims

Below is a part of John Kerry's statement on March 4 about Russian claims about Ukraine, and why they are wrong.

“In the hearts of Ukrainians and the eyes of the world, there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing.  So it’s time to set the record straight.  The Russian Government would have you believe it was the opposition who failed to implement the February 21st agreement that called for a peaceful transition, ignoring the reality that it was Yanukovych who, when history came calling, when his country was in need, when this city was the place where the action was, where the leaders of the nation were gathered in order to decide the future, he broke his obligation to sign that agreement and he fled into the night with his possessions, destroying papers behind him.  He abandoned his people and eventually his country.

The Russian Government would have you believe that the Ukraine Government somehow is illegitimate or led by extremists, ignoring the reality that the Rada, representing the people of Ukraine, the elected representatives of the people of Ukraine – they overwhelming approved the new government, even with members of Yanukovych’s party deserting him and voting overwhelmingly in order to approve this new government.  It was thanks in part to the votes from Yanukovych’s own party that the future of Ukraine changed.  And today, the Rada is the most representative institution in Ukraine.

The Russian Government would also have you believe that the calm and friendly streets – one of which I walked down but many of which I just drove through – that somehow these streets of Kyiv are actually dangerous, ignoring the reality that there has been no surge in crime, no surge in looting, no political retribution here.  The Russian Government would have you believe, against all the evidence, that there have been mass defections of Ukrainians to Russia, or that there have been mass attacks on churches in eastern Ukraine.  That hasn’t happened, either.

They would have you believe that ethnic Russians and Russian bases are threatened.  They’d have you believe that Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea or that Russian actions are legal or legitimate because Crimean leaders invited intervention.  And as everybody knows, the soldiers in Crimea, at the instruction of their government, have stood their ground but never fired a shot, never issued one provocation, have been surrounded by an invading group of troops and have seen an individual who got 3 percent of the vote installed as the so-called leader by the Russians.

They would have you believe that Kyiv is trying to destabilize Crimea, or that somehow Russian leaders invited intervention.  Not a single piece of credible evidence supports any one of these claims – none.

And the larger point is really this:  It is diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, that can best solve disputes like this in the 21st century.  President Obama and I want to make it clear to Russia and to everybody in the world that we are not seeking confrontation.  There’s a better way for Russia to pursue its legitimate interests in Ukraine.”

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