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Ukraine crisis: Obama gives full backing as stand-off hardens

Published on Mar 13, 2014 4:57 AM

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The East-West split re-opened by the crisis in Ukraine hardened Wednesday when President Barack Obama threw Washington's weight firmly behind Ukraine in its stand-off with Moscow.

Mr Obama welcomed Kiev's interim premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House and stood by his side as both leaders sternly warned Russia that Ukraine would not surrender its sovereignty.

Mr Obama repeated that Moscow would face unspecified "costs" if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not back down, and rejected a bid to hold what he called a "slapdash" referendum in Crimea.

"There's another path available and we hope President Putin is willing to seize that path," Mr Obama told White House reporters, sitting alongside Mr Yatsenyuk after their talks the Oval Office. "But if he does not, I'm very confident that the international community will stand firmly behind the Ukrainian government."

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