The White House responded to a Russian troop alert near Ukraine on Wednesday by urging “outside actors” in the region to respect Ukrainian sovereignty.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, briefing reporters as President Barack Obama flew from Washington to Minnesota, said the United States strongly supports Ukraine leaders’ efforts to form an inclusive, multi-party government.
“We urge outside actors in the region to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to end provocative rhetoric and actions, to support democratically established transitional governing structures and to use their influence in support of unity, peace and an inclusive path forward,” Earnest said.
Washington wants to “remind all governments of their political commitments to transparency about military activities” under international obligations designed to ensure peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic region, he said.
Tensions mount in Crimea
Meanwhile, pro-Russia demonstrators and those supporting Ukraine’s new pro-Western interim leaders confronted each other in the southern city of Simferopol on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula on Wednesday.
Small-scale clashes broke out between the shouting protesters, some of whom were bloodied in the incident, which happened in the courtyard of the local parliament building in the Crimean capital.
The Crimean peninsula is mainly made up of Russian speakers who support Moscow, though it also includes a minority Tatar group that tends to take an anti-Russia stance and largely supports Ukraine’s new interim leaders.
The tensions in Crimea and confrontations along ethinc lines in other parts of Ukraine have raised the specter of an East-West divide in the nation of 46 million following the ouster of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.
Kerry: ‘No zero-sum game’
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said the country should not be forced to choose between Moscow, its former Soviet master, and Washington.
“This is not a zero-sum game; it is not a West versus East, it should not be…. this is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future,” said Kerry.
Speaking on Wednesday, Kerry called on Russia to be ‘very careful’ in its judgments, and urged it to keep its commitment with respect to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.