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Obama cautious on Ukraine truce, urges move to unity government

Protesters stand outside a riot policmen base in the town of Rivne in western Ukraine February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Olexandr Kursik
Protesters stand outside a riot policmen base in the town of Rivne in western Ukraine February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Olexandr Kursik

TOLUCA, Mexico (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama reacted cautiously to a truce between the Ukrainian government and protesters on Wednesday, saying it "may hold" but that ultimately Ukraine should move toward a unity government and free and fair elections.

Obama, speaking at a news conference that ended a North American summit, said he condemned the violence in which 26 people were killed in Kiev. A truce on Wednesday was declared between the government and protesters.

"My hope is at this point that a truce may hold but ... ultimately the government is responsible for making sure that we shift toward some sort of unity government, even if it's temporary, that allows us to move to fair and free elections so that the will of the Ukrainian people can be rightly expressed without the kinds of chaos we've seen on the streets," Obama said.

He disagreed when asked whether the crises in Ukraine and Syria were a reflection of difficulties between the United States and Russia.

"Our approach in the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we're in competition with Russia," Obama said.

"Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves for the future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions without having bombs going off and killing women and children," he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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