Ukraine crisis: Biden says Russia must 'start acting'

 

Joe Biden: "Ukraine faces a struggle for its very future"

US Vice-President Joe Biden has said Russia must "stop talking and start acting" to defuse the Ukraine crisis.

He was speaking after meeting interim PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev.

Mr Biden warned Russia that further "provocative behaviour" would lead to "greater isolation" and urged Moscow to end its alleged support for pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine.

Separately, a Ukrainian military plane was hit by small arms fire over eastern Ukraine, the defence ministry says.

Funerals in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, 22 April Funerals for those killed at a pro-Russian checkpoint near Sloviansk took place on Tuesday

At the funerals

In the Church of the Holy Spirit in the centre of Sloviansk, an Orthodox priest chanted prayers for the dead. The bodies of three pro-Russian activists, shot dead at a makeshift checkpoint on Easter Sunday, lay in open coffins.

When the coffins were carried out of the church, the crowd outside shouted "Glory to the Heroes of the Donbass!" over and over again - Donbass being the name for the Don River basin. Church bells rang out.

The people I've been speaking to here are convinced that it was Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who carried out Sunday's attack. One woman told me she was proud to be Ukrainian, but that instability and violence was pushing people here to want closer ties to Russia.

The aircraft suffered minor damage over Sloviansk, which is held by pro-Russian militants, when it was targeted by automatic gunfire, according to the ministry. No-one was hurt and the plane returned safely to Kiev.

"Thanks to professional actions, military pilots managed to land the plane at the airfield without consequences," the ministry's statement said.

The Antonov An-30 aerial survey plane was carrying out surveillance at the time.

The funerals have meanwhile taken place of three men shot on Sunday during a raid on a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists near Sloviansk.

The local separatists said the attack was carried out by ultra-nationalist Right Sector militants but Kiev called it a "provocation" staged by Russian special forces.

The bodies of those killed lay in open coffins at the funeral ceremony at the Church of the Holy Spirit in the centre of Sloviansk.

'Endemic' corruption

Earlier in remarks to Ukrainian MPs, Mr Biden said the US stood with Ukraine's new leaders against "humiliating threats" - an apparent reference to Russia.

The vice-president called on Moscow to urge the pro-Russian separatists to leave the buildings they are occupying in eastern Ukraine, and to abandon checkpoints.

Mr Biden also stressed the need for the new authorities to tackle corruption, adding: "The opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right is within your grasp."

The US is to provide an additional $50m for political and economic reforms in Ukraine, including $11m to help run the presidential election due on 25 May.

An further $8m is being provided for non-lethal military assistance, such as bomb disposal equipment and radios.

After meeting Mr Biden, interim PM Yatsenyuk accused Russia of behaving "as gangsters in the modern century".

The BBC's Natalia Antelava visited a protest camp in Luhansk

Flowers lay in the road as a memorial to three men shot on Easter Sunday at a checkpoint near Sloviansk Flowers lie on the road near the site of Sunday's fatal shooting
A pro-Russian militant looks out from the barricaded entrance of the city council building on 21 April 2014 in Sloviansk Pro-Russian militants are still holding official buildings in at least nine towns and cities in the Donetsk region
'Tatars banned'

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a decree to rehabilitate Crimea's Muslim Tatars and other ethnic minorities who suffered during the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

After a referendum in Crimea last month, the territory was incorporated into Russia, something Mr Biden said the US would never recognise.

Crimea's Tatar community opposed the peninsula's takeover by Russia. On Tuesday, the Tatar assembly said the leader of the community, Mustafa Dzhemilev, had been banned from returning to Crimea for five years, along with his deputy.

'Men in masks'

Moscow and Washington are accusing each other of breaking last week's Geneva accord on resolving the Ukraine crisis, and the US is planning further sanctions should Russia fail to fulfil its Geneva commitments.

But Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the Russian parliament on Tuesday that Russia would be able to "minimise the consequences" of any further sanctions.

The 17 April Geneva accord stipulated an immediate end to violence in eastern Ukraine and called on illegal armed groups to surrender their weapons and leave official buildings.

Sergei Lavrov: "All signs show that Kiev can't, and maybe doesn't want to, control the extremists who continue to call the shots"

Pro-Russian militants are still holding official buildings in at least nine towns and cities in the Donetsk region.

In Kramatorsk, another building - a police station - was seized on Tuesday.

Mr Biden again accused Russia of supporting "men in masks in unmarked uniforms" who the US says are directing pro-Russian activity in the East.

Moscow denies being behind the protests and seizures of buildings.

However, Ukraine says photos released by the Ukrainian government and distributed by the US State Department show Russian soldiers among militants holding official buildings in eastern Ukraine.

Five photos provided by the Ukrainian government appear to show the same soldier (circled in red) in operations in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Ukraine, as well as a group photo showing a sabotage-reconnaissance group in the Russian Special Forces Photos released by the Ukrainian government purport to show a soldier, circled in red, in both Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, and in a photo (centre) showing a group in the Russian Special Forces

There was no immediate response to the pictures from the Russian government.

Ukraine has been in turmoil since last November, when Kiev was gripped by protests over whether the country should lean more towards Russia or Europe.

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 281.

    If there is one thing that Syria and the Ukraine has taught us, if you want to avoid a civil war don't invite Top Gear to do a Christmas Special.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 280.

    Why can't the pro Putin commentators understand that the Ukrainians don't want to be ruled by a foreign dictator, through a puppet government, run for the benefit of rich foreigners.

    Just like Scotland.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 279.

    The most insulting thing of all is the US pretending they are only intervening out of concern for the Ukrainian people and world peace. No one is believing these ridiculous pretences anymore. Its been half a century of them using flimsy half baked pretences to get involved in any conflict going and no ones convinced anymore. Can we just stop pretending?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 278.

    Joe Bidden and the rest of America can f*** off.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 277.

    Maybe the US should stop acting and start talking for a change. They have now come up against an opponent they can't bully, bribe or bomb and they don't know how to deal with it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 276.

    Fed up of the global policeman the U.S interfering in everyones business. Russia knows the U.S like Britain is just full of words and empty threats like the Syria debacle. One thing for sure that when I go on holiday overseas there will be far less thuggish Ukrainians spoiling my relaxation with their racist rude and offensive behaviour.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 275.

    @243

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26841732

    The BBC have reported on the far right in Kiev, you may disagree with how they reported it. In addition don't accuse an organisation of bias when they also link to other news sites for you to read at the bottom of nearly all articles they post. Perhaps read these as well? and thank the BBC for putting it all in one place for you!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 274.

    Time for the EU to wean itself off Russian gas and oil !!!

    Ease off trade with Russia and hit them in their pockets...

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 273.

    230.Alex King

    Examples of BBC Bias: All Ukrainians who smashed their way into the Govt offices are now protesters and that act was 'democratic'. All Russians who walked into Govt buildings are now separatists (terrorists), the referendum in Crimea is called 'undemocratic' and at 'gunpoint' (Despite no proof of this whatsoever and lots of proof to suggest otherwise).

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 272.

    The Cold War seems to be back again with Russia and the West both seeking to exert an influence... and neither side being one whit concerned with the well-being of Ukrainian citizens (whichever bit of the country they live in or language they speak). Will either side be willing to respect the result of the upcoming elections?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 271.

    @266

    How to differentiate between a 'pro-Russian 'professional'' and a British citizen who no longer views his government and it's actions in the same light since being better informed of its actions by a man whose name might cause this comment to be censored and a website set up by another similar man. Skepticism is to be expected...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 270.

    @263.cycleguy
    'Putin's thrown the rattle out of the pram because there is a more Western oriented government in Kiev,'
    Don't you mean there are a bunch of unelected officials who are occupying governments buildings in Kiev, pretty much the same as is now happening in the eastern Ukrainian cities.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 269.

    The most important thing that these comments demonstrate is that very few people believe the BBC anymore.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 268.

    Alex King @ 230
    190 - "Many comments on this HYS (and others) question the impartiality of the BBC's reporting".
    Read the article, it covers all sides, including Putin's."


    Accusation of bias is not based solely on this article.

    It is based on US control of UK foreign policy and the BBC's agenda.

    The disproportionate number of US 'experts' & commentators on news bulletins says it all.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 267.

    Let's see. Ukraine has democratically elected govt. Govt is overthrown by rebels many of whom are neo-nazis. Who does "democratic" US govt support?

    Frankly I'm amazed that UK ever got their backing during WWII !

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 266.

    This thread is now so overwhelmed with blatant pro-Russian 'professional' commenters that I suspect most regular readers cant be bothered to comment on here. I have only seen the same level of co-ordinated mass-commenting and rating from a well known country in the middle east with a track record for this activity. Thank god its so obvious and the BBC reporting is unaffected.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 265.

    Can't believe just how good the reporting at the BBC has become - I have yet to read a balanced report from the pro Putin Russian media.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 264.

    If people would like a different take on events in Ukraine they could do worse than to look up William Blum's website.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 263.

    No. 240 that's true, but the topic is about Russia.
    This is just a return to form by the Russians - Putin's thrown the rattle out of the pram because there is a more Western oriented government in Kiev, and many Ukrainians find the prosperity and freedom of the west more attractive than being part of some backward attempt to recreate the USSR.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 262.

    Mr Putin and his criminal gangster friends are deliberately trying to provoke confrontation with Ukrainian forces to give them an excuse to invade.
    There is now clear evidence Russian special forces are orchestrating the disorder in Donetsk.
    It isnt nice to see USA interfering but they are probably the only country who Russia cant bully and I'm sure Ukrainians will be glad of their support.

 

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