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

    Comment number 1001.

    986. corncobuk
    So let me set a scenario.

    Let's stick with reality instead: Yanukovich reneged on a EU deal which, according to a Gfk Ukraine poll on 12 November 2013, 45% favored while only 14% said they want to join Belarus and Kazakhstan in a Russian-led economic bloc. He betrayed his people. He's lucky to have got away scot free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    978. ifinkso

    You really need to get out and visit some of Russia's former colonies.... oh I mean former Warsaw Pact countries!

    You will not find such a warm welcome as you think. I was in Romania last week and the country is becoming less corrupt now they are free of Russian totalitarianism, the economy is growing fast and the people are happy.

    Doesn't quite fit with your myopic view does it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    Funny how one group that overthrew a democratically elected leadership won't allow any sort of dissension on the same grounds as they gained power. One rule for one and one for another? Oh no only one lot of people can protest at once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    There was a Russian president called Putin
    Who longed for power and loot'in
    In eastern Ukraine he created artificial distain
    Wit the intention of sending his troops in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    @471 - "Sir, your country, the mighty USA, was built on a continental grab and genocide."

    Says the Kettle to the Teapot. So tired of people rolling out arguments as to who did what, when, invaded who, blah blah. I can take that back to biblical times. Only the present is important. The US should be involved only as much as any other UN nation. Speaking of which.. way to mediate UN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    .... Cameron also decides to imprison Milliband, etc. etc..

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    Ive watched this unfolding with increasing dispair. Due to our blatant interference in Ukraine we have provoked a crisis that threatens not our security but our prosperity. Russia is not pursuing expansionist policy, we are. Through our meddling in other countries affairs we habve proven untrustworthy partners. Were Russian diplomats were handing out cake at anti austerity demos in the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    The Putin administration has mapped out this for awhile. All talk is to
    pacify the world. The longer this goes on the better it is for Mr.Putin.

    We all know how this will play out if the world refuses to intervene.
    We only have NOW to contain this aggressive move by Mr. Putin and his administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    In view of the seriousness of the situation I find that equating football
    as important and on the same level, as immature and childish. You are entitled to your opinion and your comment, but please at least try and keep some level of adult proportion.

  • Comment number 992.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    It's really difficult to predict what will happen. Either both the EU/US & Russia stay involved, and there's a lingering fear and echo of the Cold War, or, leave Ukraine to their own devices and run the risk of a civil war.

    As others have said, if the foreign involvement escalates, a third major confrontation in Europe would be devastating not just to the continent, but to the the whole world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    @940 Dave

    Did you know that Crimea polled c.40% for re-joining Russia BEFORE Ukr decided to look to the west?

    What changed ?

    Russian media told ethnic Russians in Ukraine that demonstrations in Kyiv were 'orchestrated by BRITISH' !! ..That Britain supported fascists.. ?

    The UN commissioned a report on abuse on Human Rights and criticised Russian media for spreading fear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    @955.Antony Aleksiev

    Will you please stop rewriting history. We all know that the Soviet empire was nasty, but please acknowledge that without Gorbachev and his friends there would not have been an end to the USSR at that time. We are aware that some countries had to dispose of their leaders but not all did. It's just a pity the West abandoned Gorbachev in favour of Yeltsin. Disaster!

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    USE - You must stop talking and stop acting anywhere else in the world apart fo the US. You bring turmoil and upset wherever you go. Leave the rest of the world alone please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    So , Russia may have a few soldiers on the ground in the Eastern region of Ukraine. Is this really a surprise and is it also something we wouldn't do ?

    The difference is , in Libya etc we called them "military advisers" ! The C.I.A 'annex' in Benghazi was really just a social club and the "manpads" in the hands of the opposition/rebels/militants/terrorists in Syria are 'non-lethal military aid' !

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    @973.It_s yerself

    So let me set a scenario. Most people of the UK want to leave the EU. Cameon decides to stay in the EU against the will of the people. The people rise up ignoring legal constitutional procedures, kicks Cameorn out and replaces him with Miliband. Would you say that gives Miliband and his government legality and legitimacy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    We've had the Anschluss in the Crimea. We can compare the eastern Ukranians to the Sudeten Germans. Now we need Obama to talk to Putin and declare peace in our time so that the Russians can stage a border incident and invade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    971. It's hard to argue against democracy - like arguing against better seatbelts. But what do you do when the entire political class has plundered a country for 10 years with no end in sight? Something's got to give. "We support democracy" is the US headline policy in Ukraine (and Iraq, etc.). But it's not enough if the system is bust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    It seems that the pro-Russians always repeat one reason to not be part of Europe.. It's full of homosexuals. I think they're fixated on this, probably keeps them awake at night, tossing and turning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    @ 955 Antony

    I can tell you dont know what your talking about. Please try to learn about stuff rather than just opening your mouth and talking rubbish. The USSR crumbled VOLUNTARILY not by force because they saw they could have better lives. I never said it was nice in their regions. I assume its not nice being gay in Russia. I gave no 'insights' just FACTS. Idiot springs to mind


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