Washington: Sitting in the Oval office with Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, US President Barack Obama has again declared the United States' support for Ukraine, telling reporters, ''We will stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in ensuring that territorial integrity and sovereignty is maintained''.
He said the US would ''not recognise any referendum that goes forward'', referring to a Russian-sponsored vote to be held in Crimea on Sunday on the region’s future.
Mr Yatsenyuk, who is in the midst of a string of high-level meetings in the US designed to demonstrate the strength of America’s support for his government, said ''Ukraine is and will be part of the western world'' as well as a good friend of Russia, adding that Ukraine would ''never surrender'' in a fight over its territorial integrity.
Before the meeting with Mr Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon in Washington, he met Secretary of State John Kerry. His delegation has also scheduled meetings with the US Congress, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
On Thursday Mr Yatsenyuk will travel to New York to address the United Nations Security Council.
Earlier on Wednesday White House spokesman Jay Carney said only Ukraine in its entirety could vote on the future of Crimea.
''The President's meeting with the Prime Minister of Ukraine today [will] demonstrate the fact that we strongly support the Ukrainian people, we strongly support Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, we strongly support and urge the effort under way in Congress to pass legislation that would provide bilateral assistance to Ukraine,'' he said.
According to Mr Carney, US officials were at work selecting targets for carefully designed individual sanctions, but would not name them.
On Wednesday morning, local time, the G7 group of leading industrialised nations – now pointedly excluding Russia – issued a statement calling on Russia to ''cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law'' and demanding it cease supporting preparations for the referendum.
''Any such referendum would have no legal effect,'' said the statement, that was also endorsed by leaders of the European Council and European Commission.
''Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognise the outcome,'' it said.
The story Ukraine PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk meets Obama at White House first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.