Putin wants war, says Ukrainian prime minister

Says Russian leader seeks to revise World War II outcomes

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As the U.S. and its allies eye further action against Russia, Ukraine’s new prime minister Wednesday passionately accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of seeking to seize control of the Crimean Peninsula and fomenting all-out war in a bid to “revise the outcomes” of World War II.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk spoke minutes after an Oval Office meeting. President Obama underscored how strongly the U.S. is backing Ukraine’s new government by warning Mr. Putin that the outside world would never recognize the results of the Moscow-planned “slap dash” referendum on Crimean independence from Ukraine.

“We completely reject a referendum patched together in a few weeks with Russian military personnel basically taking over Crimea. We reject its legitimacy. … We will not recognize, certainly, any referendum that goes forward,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Yatsenyuk said Moscow is trying, contrary to Mr. Putin’s claims about trying to protect ethnic Russians and military assets, to stoke further conflict and reclaim land and influence through force.

“If he wants to have the stability, the peace and prosperity in Europe, he has to pull back and start real talks. If he wants to redraw the lines and to change or undermine the entire global security and to revise the outcomes of the Second World War, they will move forward,” the Ukrainian leader said in brief but passionate remarks to reporters outside the White House.

President Barack Obama, right, talks with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Obama welcomed Ukraine’s new prime minister as the U.S. seeks to highlight ties with the former Soviet republic now caught in a diplomatic battle between East and West.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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President Barack Obama, right, talks with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, left, ... more >

“In this case, the idea is not just to annex Crimea but to invade central Ukraine, Ukrainian capital, and to start the war. My message to President PutinMr. Putin, tear down this wall. The wall of war, intimidation and military aggression. Let’s talk. Let’s calm down,” he said, echoing one of the most famous lines of President Reagan, widely regarded as a hero in much of the former Soviet bloc.

The leaders met just days before Crimea votes on whether to secede from Ukraine and potentially join Russia.

After prolonged violent protests, Ukrainians last month ousted their pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and has been in a state of turmoil.

Mr. Yatsenyuk took the prime minister’s office on an interim basis after having turned down Mr. Yanukovych’s offer of the same position because of their disagreements over whether Ukraine should tilt toward Russia or Western Europe.

After Mr. Yanukovych fled the capital city of Kiev, Russian troops moved into Crimea, drawing condemnation from the U.S., its allies in Europe and even China.

In Kiev, government officials on Wednesday accused Russia of conducting a large military buildup near the border, leading to fears of an invasion.

Moscow denies Ukrainian officials’ claims that Russia has deployed more than 80,000 troops, 270 tanks and 140 combat planes near the border. The Kremlin granted permission for Ukraine to conduct surveillance flights in the area to prove its assertions.

“Russian armed forces aren’t conducting any military activities near the border of Ukraine that could threaten its security,” said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov.

The Obama administration continues to pursue a multipronged approach while hoping for a diplomatic solution.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry will travel to London on Friday and meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in an another attempt to defuse the crisis.

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