U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is calling for Russia to live up to its recent agreement to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, adding that the country is "in the struggle for its very future." Biden also warned Kyiv it must tackle the "cancer of corruption."
During a joint appearance Tuesday with interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden said it is time for Russia "to stop talking and start acting" on commitments it made last week during international talks in Geneva to withdraw support for pro-Russian separatist forces who have taken over government buildings in eastern Ukraine.
"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," he said. "We will not allow this to become an open ended process. Time is short in which to make progress."
The U.S. vice president said Ukraine "is and must remain one country." He said the United States would not let Ukraine "walk down this road alone... we will walk it with you."
Biden also said the U.S. would provide an additional $50 million for the Ukrainian government, including $11 million to help fund the May 25 presidential election.
A White House statement Tuesday said the United States will provide Kyiv with $8 million in non-lethal military aid, including communications equipment and vehicles.
During his visit in Ukraine's capital for talks with Yatsenyuk and acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, Biden pledged U.S. assistance in moving Ukraine to become energy independent and not have to rely on Russian natural gas.
Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia are blaming each other for a deadly shooting at a checkpoint in the pro-Russian city of Slovyansk, shattering an Easter truce. Three people were killed. The separatists blame gunmen with the Ukrainian nationalist Right Sector group. Kyiv authorities accuse Russian special forces of staging the murders.
The pro-Russians are demanding the right to hold referendums on splitting with Ukraine and joining with Russia. A vote last month in Crimea led to the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian protesters in the regional capital Donetsk greeted Vice President Biden’s visit to Kyiv with skepticism. Lyudmila was among those at the barricades.
"The American vice president came to help the Kyiv gangsters, the Kyiv government, but not us," she says.
Washington has called on Moscow to live up to commitments made in Geneva last week to put more pressure on the pro-Russian protesters to vacate state buildings. Russia denies any involvement in the protests.
The White House Monday issued photographs it claims show that a Russian soldier seen in eastern Ukraine this month was also in Georgia during the Russian invasion in 2008. The photographs have not been independently verified. Russia has denied having any soldiers in Ukraine. It says all the pro-Russian separatists are locals.
The allegations are part of a long history of Russian interference in the region, argues Andrew Foxall of policy institute The Henry Jackson Society in London.
“I think what we’ve seen over a number of years in eastern Ukraine is the Kremlin and the Russian government effectively trying to provoke separatist sentiments. And the recent action that we’ve seen in Kharkiv and Donetsk is symptomatic of that and symbolic of this wider project that the Kremlin has been trying to undertake,” said Foxall.
Washington says it is preparing new sanctions should Russia fail to live up to the commitments made in Geneva. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Russia's parliament Tuesday his country would withstand any further measures.
"We will show our teeth if it is necessary," he said, "and, within the law, we will appeal to courts and other institutions.”
NATO also is showing its teeth. Five mine-sweeping ships were deployed to the Baltic Sea Tuesday, designed to boost NATO's preparedness and reassure eastern allies.
Henry Ridgwell contributed to this report from London.