Biden warns Russia ‘time is short’ for progress on Ukraine
Washington offers Ukraine a US$50m aid package to help with economic and political reform as Vice President Joe Biden addresses legislators in Kiev
Agencies in Kiev
US Vice President Joe Biden, on a visit to Kiev, said on Tuesday that “time is short” for Russia to make progress on its commitment at Geneva last week to help defuse the crisis in Ukraine.
Calling on Moscow to remove troops built up on the borders of Ukraine and to “stop talking and start acting” on the surrender of pro-Russian separatist militants in the east of the country, Biden told a news conference that more provocative actions would lead to further sanctions against Russia.
“No nation should threaten its neighbours by amassing troops along the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces,” he said after meeting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.
“We have been clear that more provocative behaviour by Russia will lead to more costs and to greater isolation.”
The US administration has warned Moscow that it is ready to impose heavier economic sanctions.
Biden said: “We’ve heard a lot from Russian officials in the past few days. But now it’s time for Russia to stop talking and start acting.
“We will not allow this to become an open ended process. Time is short in which to make progress.”
Watch: US Vice President Biden in Kiew to show suppport and warn Russia
Washington on Tuesday offered Ukraine a new US$50 million aid package to help with economic and political reform, the White House said on Tuesday , and offered an additional US$8 million in non-lethal military aid, including radios and vehicles.
Small in terms of Ukraine’s needs and in relation to the US$1 billion loan guarantee already signed with Washington, the package, along with Biden’s visit, was a clear show of support for the new authorities following the overthrow of the Kremlin-backed president and continuing confrontation with Russia.
“The United States is committed to ensuring that Ukrainians alone are able to determine their country’s future without intimidation or coercion from outside forces,” it said.
Saying Washington was ready to provide further assistance after a presidential election on May 25, it said US$11.4 million of the package would support the integrity of that vote.
US experts would also work on reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas and in fighting corruption.
The United States is standing by Ukraine in the face of “humiliating threats” ahead of a crucial presidential election next month, US Vice President Joe Biden told legislators in Kiev on Tuesday.
“You face very daunting problems, and some might say, humiliating threats,” Biden said, adding that the poll set for May 25 could be “the most important election in Ukrainian history”.
Biden told Ukrainian presidential candidates and members of parliament that Washington was ready to help Ukraine’s economy but warned them they must fight the “cancer” of endemic corruption.
In Kiev to offer a symbolic show of US support, Biden said the presidential election would be an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a more unified and prosperous country.
Washington, he said, was ready to assist in holding it.
Biden’s visit to Ukraine follows the signing in Geneva last Thursday of a four-way peace deal to de-escalate tension in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have seized towns and key facilities.
The Kiev leadership says the rebellions in the east are inspired and directed by Russia, one of the signatories of the Geneva accord, which annexed Crimea in March.
The Geneva accord is having only limited effect, however, with separatists refusing to put down their arms and pull out of key occupied points in line with the agreement.
Saying Ukraine faced humiliating threats and daunting problems, Biden said the United States was ready to assist its leaders in seizing a chance to create national unity.
“The opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right, is within your grasp. And we want to be your partner and friend,” he said.
A US official told reporters on Monday that Biden would discuss energy security with Ukraine’s leaders, including ways to increase domestic production of natural gas. Kiev currently relies heavily on gas supplies from Moscow.
Biden told the legislators it would take time for Ukraine to achieve energy security but it was within the country’s power to do so.
“Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: keep your gas. It would be a very different world,” he said.
Biden said the United States was ready to help Ukraine stabilise and strengthen its economy, but he warned the leaders they needed to crack down on abuses within the political system.
“To be very blunt about it ... you have to fight the cancer of corruption,” he said.
Billionaire confectionary oligarch Petro Poroshenko, who with former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is one of the front-runners in the May election, was present at Tuesday’s meeting.