WASHINGTON -- President Obama is scheduled to host the new Ukrainian prime minister at the White House on Wednesday as the U.S. and allies prepare for a coming referendum on whether the Crimea region of the European nation should become independent.
White House advisors say Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s Oval Office visit is meant to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. supports the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government.
It comes as leaders of the Group of 7 nations called Wednesday on Russia to drop its efforts to change the status of Crimea.
Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops in the region, the leaders said in a statement, the referendum in Crimea set for Sunday would be “a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force.”
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to talk with Yatsenyuk about how to find a peaceful resolution to Russia’s ongoing military intervention in Crimea, a White House official said. They’ll also talk about how the international community can help Ukraine deal with its economic challenges.
“There is an opportunity here to prevent this situation from becoming more acute and to prevent the costs to Russia from becoming even higher,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “There have been and there will be costs for the actions that Russia has already taken by intervening militarily in a sovereign state.”
[For The Record, 8:18 a.m. PST March 12: An earlier version of this post stated that the Crimea referendum will decide whether the region will become part of Russia. Voters will say whether they want the region to seek independence from Ukraine.]