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A Coup Or A Revolution? The U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine Explains


We're going to stay in Kiev now and speak with Geoffrey Pyatt. He is the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine and he joins me live on the line. Welcome to the program, ambassador.


MARTIN: So, the big question. Is this a coup or is this a revolution? How does the U.S. perceive this?

PYATT: Well, I mean, as Soraya's report captured, the past couple of days have been, you know, thrilling, exhausting but also inspiring, because what's ultimately coming out on top is the will of the Ukrainian people. And we the United States have been involved, you know, in a very long effort, over decades, to strengthen democracy here. And I think in many ways what comes in the weeks ahead is a second chance for Ukrainian democracy, a chance to make the institutions work. Obviously, an incredibly dynamic situation, as Soraya's report described, but also one with a lot to be hopeful about.

MARTIN: As we just heard, the speaker of the parliament is now nominally in charge of the country. But parliament members are resigning left and right. If a power vacuum remains, what happens next? Are you concerned that the country could dissolve into some kind of larger chaos?

PYATT: No. Well, so far, we have been encouraged by what's been happening in the Rada, in the parliament. The fact that there was a democratic process through which Mr. Turchinov was selected as the speaker, we know that there are now intensive consultations going on among all of the political parties to shape a successor government. And it's been an American principal, that what Ukraine really needs right now is a multiparty technical government that can bring together both the Party of Regions, the previously governing party, and the three major opposition parties in a way that will allow people, allow the administration to focus on the incredibly difficult economic and political challenges that Ukraine faces going ahead.

MARTIN: Has the Ukrainian political opposition come to you for advice in any way, at this point?

PYATT: Well, I mean, we are great friends of Ukraine. The United States has a proud tradition here of working with all the political parties. And we, through this crisis, have been in close consultation with both the government, with the three major opposition parties. Secretary of State Kerry spoke to some of the opposition leaders on Friday afternoon, in fact, just as some of this drama was beginning to unfold. But we're also in close touch with the Party of Regions, which is President Yanukovych's party. And where I think there is now among many Party of Regions members as well a desire to figure out how to put behind them the extraordinarily painful violence of the past few weeks and to begin building the modern democratic society that Ukrainians and especially Ukrainian young people aspire to live in.

MARTIN: There are reports that the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, has fled to the eastern part of Ukraine bordering Russia, strong ties to Russia in that part of the country. What does that mean?

PYATT: Well, the United States, since independence, has been a stalwart supporter of Ukraine sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. And that's going to govern our approach now as well. So, we are going to be very closely engaged with all of the regions. I've been encouraged talking to the Batkivshchyna Party - speaker Turchinov's party - that they recognize that they need to be reaching out to Eastern Ukraine as well and they are actively involved in that effort.

So, that's going to be very much part of the work for the next few days, continuing to encourage this broad, multiparty, technical government I talked about and also making sure that the new administration here in Kiev is perceived as governing for all Ukrainians.

MARTIN: Very briefly, any sign that the security forces which are not present on the streets right now, that the government security forces will support the new government?

PYATT: Well, I think that's, in fact, that's already been established. For us, a major bellwether was yesterday morning when the webpage of the interior ministry posted a statement expressing support for the peaceful transfer of authority that was taking place. There is a new interior minister that has been named and his role was ratified today by the parliament, by the Rada. We are in close touch with both the interior ministry, the police, the intelligence agency in order to underline the importance of gaining rapid authority over the instruments of state power.

MARTIN: A very fluid situation. I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine. Thank you so much for your time.

PYATT: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.