Ukraine premier: Crimea will remain in Ukraine

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm •  Published: March 5, 2014

"The Ukrainian government is legitimate. And let me remind Mr. Putin that this government was supported by the constitutional majority of Ukrainian MPs with 371 votes. We are legitimate and we must fulfill our responsibilities. And we strongly recommend to our Russian partners to build up relations with the new Ukrainian government."

A spokeswoman said it was the prime minister's first sit-down interview since he assumed the post. Yatsenyuk, who spoke in English, said he hadn't talked personally to Putin, "but it's in the interests of our countries to start a dialogue."

"First we need to stop the invasion and afterward we want Russia to (be) our partners, real partners and to stop this zero-sum game. It is to be a win-win game where both Ukrainian and Russian interests are considered," he said. "So we urge the Russian government to start real talks with the new Ukrainian government and we ask Russia not to be a neighbor but to become a real partner."

Yatsenyuk, 39, is a millionaire banker who has served as the economy minister, foreign minister, and then parliament speaker. He unsuccessfully ran for president in 2010. He is viewed as a technocratic reformer and enjoys the support of the United States.

Yatsenyuk said Crimea must remain part of Ukraine, but may be granted more local powers. He said was in favor of establishing a special task force "to consider what kind of additional autonomy the Crimean Republic could get."

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev to announce $1 billion in U.S. assistance to Ukraine in the form of energy subsides. Yatsenyuk told AP the economy of this former Soviet republic "is in a big mess" — but that the new government is taking action to improve things.

"The state treasury is empty. And due to unbelievable and unlimited corruption in my country we cannot collect revenues in order to execute our social obligations, but despite this we have a clear-cut action plan how to tackle economic problems.

"We resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund. The IMF mission is on the ground. A good gesture made by the United States government to support the state of Ukraine with $1 billion of guarantees is a first sign that Ukraine could be back on track in terms of economic stability.

"But we need to move further."