|Ukraine reluctant to pick a fight with Kremlin
Ukraine’s acting president told AFP he would not wage war over Crimea as the ex-Soviet state's premier prepared to seek US President Barack Obama's help against Russia's expansionist threat.
The first meeting between Obama and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk comes with Europe's largest nation in danger of breaking apart when the predominantly ethnic Russian region holds a Moscow-backed referendum Sunday on switching over to Kremlin rule.
Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the heavily outnumbered army would never try to seize back the Black Sea peninsula from Russian troops.
“We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected,’’ Turchynov said in an interview with AFP.
Turchynov also said Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far resisted intense international pressure and refused all contacts with Kiev.
“Unfortunately, for now Russia is rejecting a diplomatic solution to the conflict,'' he said. “They are refusing all contact at foreign ministry and top government level.''
Turchynov said that as commander in chief he fully realized the futility of launching an all-out war against a much larger force that has nuclear weapons and tens of thousands of additional troops stationed in Russia.
“Significant tank units are massed near Ukraine's eastern border,'' the acting president said in the interview.
“They're provoking us to have a pretext to intervene on the Ukrainian mainland... [but] we cannot follow the scenario written by the Kremlin.''
Putin has accused Turchynov and Yatsenyuk of rising to power through an “unconstitutional coup.’’
He called the Crimea referendum a “sham'' whose outcome had been already decided “in the offices of the Kremlin.’’