McCain: US Must Support Ukrainians, Get Tougher With Putin

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called on the US government to more actively support “the peaceful aspirations of all Ukrainians” for a democratic future linked to Europe and independent of Russian domination. McCain spoke at the Atlantic Council in his first address on the Ukrainian crisis following his visit to the country.

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McCain told the audience that in a two and a half hour meeting Sunday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych focused “about ninety-five percent” on talks with the European Union and Russia, and barely mentioned the mass demonstrations that have roiled his country. “I got the distinct impression that President Yanukovych is either insensitive to, or not concerned about, or doesn’t understand the impact of a million or two…of his fellow citizens demonstrating” in the capital for a more democratic Ukraine aligned with Europe rather than Russia, he said.

“In all of my many years and travels abroad, I have never seen anything like what we witnessed” in visiting the packed crowd of protesters in Kyiv’s Independence Square, McCain said. “It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.”

The Obama administration has responded weakly to coercive Russian moves against Ukraine and nearby countries as President Vladimir Putin has sought to rebuild a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, McCain said. He added that this week’s $15 billion Russian financial aid package for Ukraine “is a Band-Aid” that may buy Yanukovych perhaps a year’s respite before Ukraine will face further economic collapse, because the Ukrainian leader doesn’t recognize the need to address rampant corruption in his administration.

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View photos from the event here.