Sen. John McCain said Sunday the Obama administration has failed to give adequate support to Ukraine as it clashes with pro-Russian partisans near its eastern border.
Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican and a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was responding to reports of deadly unrest in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, where national forces engaged in a gunfight Sunday with guerrillas who had taken over a police station. At least one security officer died and several others were wounded in the city of Slovyansk, according to multiple reports.
The senator said sanctions to date have done little to stem Russian President Vladimir Putin’s designs in the region, and it is time for the U.S. to buckle down and provide tangible assistance to Ukraine.
“I can tell you from my conversations with people in the government, they feel abandoned by us, and rightfully so. This is shameful,” Mr. McCain told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Also Sunday, Russia called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss Ukraine on Sunday evening. The Security Council confirmed in an email to reporters that members have been invited to attend “informal consultations” on Ukraine Sunday evening.
The Ukrainian crisis has persisted as a concern in Washington, even as lawmakers dwell on domestic conflicts such as the rollout of health care reforms and the IRS’ political targeting scandal.
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Unrest near Ukraine’s eastern border is the new front in the former Soviet republic’s clashes with Russia, after Mr. Putin annexed the Crimea, a strategically important peninsula on the Black Sea with longstanding ties to his country.
In the east, the Donetsk area had served as a stronghold for Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev in February after protests over his Russian sympathies. His ouster put a pro-western government in power, but led Mr. Putin to push back against what he viewed as an unlawful uprising against Moscow’s interests there.
In a televised address Sunday, Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov vowed not to permit a rerun of the Crimea annexation and offered amnesty to anyone who had laid down his arms by Monday morning.
“The Security Council has made a decision to begin a large-scale anti-terrorist operation with participation of army forces,” he said. “We’re not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.”
U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said the latest skirmishes in the east have “all the telltale signs of what we saw in Crimea” in terms of being engineered by Russia.
“It’s professional, it’s coordinated, there’s nothing grassroots-seeming about it,” she told ABC’s “This Week.” “The forces are doing in each of the six or seven cities that they’ve been active in exactly the same thing. So certainly it bears the telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement.”
She said Ukraine’s government signaled a willingness to talk about regional autonomy and decentralization of the government, making Russia’s recent moves “so outrageous and so ironic.”
With tensions rising, the focus turns to an American response.
“We ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some weapons — light weapons with which to defend themselves,” Mr. McCain said.
Financial sanctions have taken a bite out of the ruble’s worth and sent Russia’s stock market tumbling, and more could be on the way, according to Mrs. Power.
“I think we’ve seen that the sanctions can bite,” she said. “And if actions like the kind that we’ve seen over the last few days continue, you’re going to see a ramping up of those sanctions.”