White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today that the U.S. government still doesn’t know where deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice admitted the same thing on Meet the Press on Sunday.
This apparent lack of intelligence comes days after President Obama protested that the crisis in Kiev wasn’t “some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”
“As you know, Mr. Yanukovych has left Kiev in an orderly fashion, packed up his things and left. And his whereabouts are not known to us in a confirmable way. And certainly, while he was a democratically elected leader, his actions have undermined his legitimacy. And he is not actively leading the country at present,” Carney responded when asked who Washington considers the legitimate leader right now.
“We do believe that Parliament has lawfully elected its new speaker and we support getting the situation under control in terms of law and order, and in ensuring that the institutions of government are working. We note that recent parliamentary votes have been passed by overwhelming majorities that include members of Yanukovych’s own party,” he continued.
“We believe that working pursuant to Ukraine’s constitution and through its institutions of government is the most promising path towards the de-escalation of violence, a multiparty coalition government, and early elections — all things that we have long supported. And it will be critical, in our view, in the coming days for Ukraine’s leadership to focus on its pressing financial challenges and we stand ready to support them as they make needed reforms.”
Reports have indicated Yanukovych is in the pro-Moscow south of the country and was refused a charter flight out of the nation.
So does the U.S. consider Yanukovych deposed and recognize chairman of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksandr Turchynov as the interim president?
“Well, we believe he is the lawfully elected speaker of parliament. The — Mr. Yanukovych had left Kiev and packed up his belongings and left, and his whereabouts are not known. So, he’s certainly not actively leading the country at present. And we encourage the Ukrainian parliament and others to take actions that help continue a path towards de-escalation of violence, embrace constitutional change, and move toward a coalition government — a multiparty coalition government, as well as early elections,” Carney responded.
It was clear why Washington was so hesitant to proclaim Yanukovych officially ousted: Russia.
“Russia and the United States have a shared interest in restoring Ukraine to stability, in de-escalating violence, and supporting the formation of a technical government with broad-based support across Ukraine. And, you know, it’s certainly not in Russia’s interest to have tens of thousands of people in the street deeply discontented with the government that they were closely backing, and instability and violence in Ukraine is certainly not — and it should not be seen as in Russia’s interest,” Carney said.
“…It was our view that President Putin and Russia generally agrees with the proposition that we need to see a Ukraine that is — where there is not violence and where stability is returned, because that’s in Russia’s interests. It’s in Ukraine’s interest and it’s in Europe’s and the United States’ interest.”
Russia recalled its ambassador and dismissed the Euromaidan protests as “armed clashes between violent roughnecks and militants from far-right nationalist organizations with security forces who were defending the safety of the peaceful population and the interests of the government.” The Kremlin also blamed the West for stoking the uprising.
On the arrest warrant issued to bring Yanukovych in on charges of murder, Carney said “these aren’t positions for us to take.”