Obama praises Ukrainians for going to the polls

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — President Barack Obama is praising the people of Ukraine for participating in presidential voting “despite provocations and violence.”

He’s singling out those “courageous Ukrainians” who cast ballots in parts of eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists tried to block voting.

Obama says the U.S. is eager to work with Ukraine’s next president and a democratically elected parliament, and to support the country’s efforts to enact political and economic reforms.

He says Ukrainians have shown over the past few months a desire to pick their leaders “without interference” and determine their future “free of violence and intimidation.”

Obama says the U.S. supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and rejects Russia’s “occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.”

The White House released Obama’s statement while he was in Afghanistan on Sunday.

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