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Originally published February 23, 2014 at 11:20 AM | Page modified February 24, 2014 at 12:30 AM

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Rice says Russian move on Ukraine would be mistake

President Barack Obama's national security adviser said Sunday it would be a "grave mistake" for Russia to intervene militarily in Ukraine.


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WASHINGTON —

President Barack Obama's national security adviser said Sunday it would be a "grave mistake" for Russia to intervene militarily in Ukraine.

Susan Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that in Obama's phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday the two agreed that a political settlement in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, should ensure the unity of the country and the right of Ukrainians to express their free will. She was asked whether the White House fears Putin will send Russian troops into Ukraine.

"That would be a grave mistake," she said. "It's not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or the United States to see the country split."

Protesters took to the streets of Kiev late last year after President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned an agreement that would have strengthened his country's ties with the European Union in favor of seeking closer cooperation with Moscow.

Rice said that in the weeks ahead, Washington will cooperate with Europe and international organizations to help the Ukrainian economy, which she described as fragile.

Speaking on a separate Sunday show, Republican Sen. John McCain, a frequent critic of Obama's foreign policy, echoed some of the same themes as Rice on seeking to help Ukraine.

He said the United States needs to be clear with Putin that Ukrainians must be allowed to determine their own future and that partitioning the nation would be unacceptable.

"They want to be Western," McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation." ''That's what this whole hundreds of thousands in the square was all about. They don't want to be Eastern."

McCain said he has spoken with an array of Ukrainians in the opposition movement in recent days. They are overjoyed, McCain said, but they are also worried about the economy.

"Their economic situation is so dire that literally the economy is on the verge of collapse and they're going to need help immediately," McCain said.



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