WASHINGTON - The United States and Britain said Tuesday that Ukraine should not be a battleground between East and West and voiced support for the country after protests that ousted pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.
World powers are seeking to ease tensions over Ukraine as the interim authorities in Kiev grapple with the threat of economic collapse and separatism.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, after talks with his American counterpart John Kerry, backed Ukraine's territorial integrity, with fears the nation - which has strong links to Russia - could be torn apart.
"This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East," said Kerry after the two men met at the State Department.
"This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future."
Hague, who is planning to visit Kiev shortly, was equally emphatic, saying: "This is a country that needs financial assistance from many sources, including from Russia. It's not about pulling them away from Russia. It's about enabling them to make their own choices."
Ukraine will have to be "able to meet the conditions for that and it is important for economic reforms to take place," Hague told reporters outside the State Department.
A "pervasive culture of corruption" must also be tackled in order for the international community to feel that it can support Ukraine, he said.
"It is obviously not in the interests of Russia for Ukraine to face economic collapse," Hague added. "It isn't in the interests of Russia for the world to turn away."
And Hague urged Ukraine's interim leaders "to form an inclusive government, involve people from different parts of Ukraine including from the east and the south of Ukraine. It's important for Ukrainians to be able to make these decisions together after the terrible divisions of recent months."
"We want to send our strong support for the territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine," he added.
Kerry said that Washington also wanted to work with Moscow "and with everybody available, to make sure that this is peaceful from this day forward," after almost 100 people died in days of unrest that culminated in the toppling of Yanukovych, a Russian ally.
Deputy US Secretary of State William Burns arrived in Kiev on Tuesday and met opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, among other planned encounters.
Washington hopes the International Monetary Fund can make an assessment "about exactly what the state of the economy is, a real assessment of what the needs are," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.