Susan Rice: Russian Military Intervention in Ukraine ‘Would be a Grave Mistake’ (+video)

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Efrem LukatskyAny Russian decision to send forces into Ukraine to restore a government it views as favorable “would be a grave mistake,” national security advisor Susan Rice said Sunday, after dramatic turns in the country’s standoff saw President Viktor Yanukovich effectively removed from office.

“It’s not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see a country split,” Rice said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It’s in nobody’s interests to see violence return and the situation escalate.”

Asked whether President Obama had told President Vladimir Putin to “back off” when the two spoke by phone on Friday, Rice replied, “The president’s message was, ‘Look, we have a shared interest in a Ukraine that remains unified, whole, independent, and is able to exercise the will of its people freely.’ At that point, Putin was in agreement.”

Russia and the U.S. have accused each other of interference in the crisis, which began when Yanukovich last November ditched a plan to strengthen economic and political relations with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Opposition supporters occupied Kiev’s independence square to protest the decision, which was cemented when Putin offered Yanukovich a $15 billion bailout.

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