Warsaw: President Barack Obama conferred today with Ukraine`s future leader amid hopes he can unite Ukraine and guide it out of crisis, as Western leaders who had united against Russia diverged on their diplomatic approach.
Obama`s meeting with Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw came 10 days after the billionaire candy maker was chosen as Ukraine`s first elected leader since its pro-Russian president fled and Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula in a confrontation that`s reignited old global divisions.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Poroshenko ahead of the president at the Marriott Hotel where the American delegation here was staying, and said the United States looks forward to celebrating Poroshenko`s inauguration Saturday.
"He won everywhere, and clearly has been given a mandate to try to lead the country into a new era," Kerry said. Poroshenko thanked the American people for supporting democracy and freedom in Ukraine.
Obama was in Warsaw to help commemorate the 25th anniversary of Poland`s first partially free election, an example of democratic progress that the US president plans to point to in a speech today as a model for Ukraine.
"What we have learned from our history -- and nobody understands that better than the Poles -- is that basic principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty and freedom, the ability for people to make their own determinations about their country`s future, is the cornerstone of the peace and security that we`ve seen in Europe over the last several decades," Obama said in a news conference yesterday.
"That is threatened by Russian actions in Crimea, and now Russian activity in eastern Ukraine," the president added.
Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin not to stoke divisions in Ukraine and instead to recognise Poroshenko`s election and begin rebuilding trust with the West.
World leaders excluded Putin from a Group of 7 meeting starting tonight in Brussels that was originally slated to include Putin and take place in Sochi, Russia.
But in recent days, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany have scheduled face-to-face talks with the Russian leader, exposing divisions among Western nations that had united to isolate Russia over its aggressive moves against Ukraine.
Obama and Putin have spoken by phone multiple times -- but not in person -- since Russia annexed Crimea and stationed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine.