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
    +2

    Comment number 701.

    The Usual Fraud and phony Dipolmacy by both sides just to keep the world in fear with Bankers hoping to make money on arms and or start WW-3 !

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 700.

    @690 "their parliament (the people they elected to run the country) threw the President out"

    Maybe you need to come back to reality and then swat up on how the world really works before commenting.
    The parliament did not throw the president out, he fled as armed gangs backed by the west overran the country. The "elected" leader of Ukraine is anything but and is there to do the West's bidding

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 699.

    Are we seeing a new world order as prescribed by Russia? So is it that all English-speaking, Chinese (Mandarin)- speaking, Japanese-speaking, German-speaking..... people should expect their 'mother' countries to come and protect them or take over regions/countries? Is Israel going to take parts of Ukraine to protect Jews?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 698.

    Only naive and stupid people believe in what Putin tells .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 697.

    677.eugene
    So if Russia sends troops into Ukraine, you suggest Ukraine retaliates by sending troops into Russia? This would not only be suicidal for the Ukrainian troops, but also extremely dangerous for everybody in Ukraine as it would lead to a full scale Russian invasion and takeover. And if the west intervened on Ukraine's behalf it would lead to WW3 and probably a nuclear conflagration.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 696.

    @ 680. qqpp

    What indocrination by extremist minorities???? You are as homophobic as them..
    You said you were there but you seem to know nothing! There are neo-nazi groups proliferating in Russia and people still wanna talk about the ones in Ukraine... the irony

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 695.

    I would like to know what everybody has as solution? It is easy blaming others for problems but what should everybody do to get Ukraine working again?
    Easy answer: US, EU and Russia should leave them in peace.
    Anybody really believe that will happen? Anybody really believe this could have happened?
    I don´t.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 694.

    682.born cynic: The Poles requested US troops, nobody dragged them in to anything. You see, it goes both ways.

    680.qqpp : Extremist minorities - the homosexuals - indoctrinating children? Did you catch the homophobia bug while in Russia or were you already like that? I suppose indoctrinating children to not discriminate is worse than to believe in a god and be vile to 'extremist' minorities.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 693.

    Lets take a step back. Once again the BBC is being accused of bias yet for starters this thread exits - full of comments blaming them of bias. Elsewhere "proof" of involvement of outside forces is in quotes and there are notes that it has been impossible to verify the sources of some of the information. Add to that both sides are quoted.
    Keep up the good work BBC.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 692.

    673.Nimrod2... Paranoid much? My forebears have been in the UK eons. I think you need to study a bit of history and then you can come back and make some informed comment. Do you deny that the US agitated and supported far right groups in Ukraine? There's plenty of evidence to support that they did. No one slating the West wants anyone to live under tyranny. We don't trust our own cos they lie.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 691.

    667.Bill wrote:
    "No, but it does mean they have poor judgement and a hidden agenda."
    ---
    Possibly, if not probably.

    667 Bill wrote:
    "It does make their opinion suspect, and their motives untrustworthy"
    Agreed.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 690.

    668 Rick. So the RUSSIAN soldiers that Putin has just awarded medals to for the action in annexing Crimea weren't there?

    The Ukrainian people had enough of a corrupt Russian puppet president taking the money out of Ukraine for his & Putin's own benefit, & their parliament (the people they elected to run the country) threw the President out, he then ran to Putin to avoid jail for his crimes.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 689.

    The media coverage does seem slightly one-sided.

    What has Russia actually done wrong? They're standing up for a democratically elected government that was ousted through violence in their neighbouring country, as well as protecting the people who supported this government..

    Since when has the west opposed democracy, and protection of supporters of democracy?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 688.

    677.eugene

    The Ukrainian government needs to move substantial troops to the Northern border near Moscow...
    ===

    Not doing this because the current regime have no military support. The generals of Ukraine graduated from Soviet military schools. A few high ranking generals have already gone over to Russia. The rest are not loyal to Kiev regime anyway.

    But will the BBC report this?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 687.

    It's funny that the interim government in Kiev is referred to as far-right while anti-semitic flyers are handed out by pro-Russian groups.

    The so-called "neo-nazis" are no different from groups in other countries. Can you honestly say that the BNP and EDL wouldn't be out in force if the same happened in the UK? The thing is they have no popular support, as will be apparent come election time.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 686.

    Both sides seem to be trying to provoke an armed conflict. They haven't had a chance to try out their new toys for a while, especially since direct intervention in Syria was ruled out. Or am I too cynical?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 685.

    662.jonyinternational.

    Any government that turns it's guns on peaceful protesters deserves to be overthrown. Yanukovych deserved everything he got.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 684.

    @doer

    I already said this is the foundation of every country.. the answer is of course they will

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 683.

    #614.ifinkso
    "Nasty little Toy aren't you."

    You are right to fear me. I can see right through you.

    "Man up and prove your debating skills by answering Clementt's question @ 319 or go back to CBBC."

    I already answered it in post 405.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 682.

    This will not end well.


    Did the US say there were planning to station troops on the Polish border? Surely this is insanity, dragging Poland into this farce, it wasnt enough they ceded land to make up western Ukraine, now they will become the front line for the latest US/USS.. I mean Russian grandstanding.

 

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