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Obama: U.S. would reject vote joining Crimea with Russia
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"Ukraine is and will be part of the Western world," he said.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Yatsenyuk cast Putin’s move into Crimea as part of a broader plan to reassert Russian influence in Ukraine.

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"The idea is not just to annex Crimea, but to invade central Ukraine, Ukrainian capital and to start a war," said Yatsenyuk, who plans to address the United Nations on Thursday.

Putin has so far rebuffed efforts by the U.S. to punish Russia for its military maneuvers in Ukraine. The U.S. has put in place travel bans for Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the Crimea advances. And the seven other member nations of the Group of Eight have suspended plans to attend their annual summit which was scheduled to be held in Russia this summer.

A possible option for easing the dispute emerged earlier this week. Crimea’s parliament announced that if voters there back splitting off from Ukraine, the region would first declare itself an independent state. The move would give Moscow the option of saying there is no need for Crimea to become part of Russia while keeping it firmly within its sphere of influence.

Obama acknowledged that even if the referendum can be stopped, Crimea is unlikely to go back to its old relationship with the rest of Ukraine.

"There is a constitutional process in place and a set of elections that they can move forward on that, in fact, could lead to different arrangements over time with the Crimean region," Obama said. "But that is not something that can be done with the barrel of a gun pointed at you."


Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Bradley Klapper at http://twitter.com/bklapperAP

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