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.

 

Comments

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 981.

    How can anybody expect that the May elections could be fair. Already now there have been violent attacks against some candidates and armed paramilitaries are all over also in Kiev and Western part of the country. The February agreement would have been a better way.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 980.

    no greater russia without kiev. Keiv must bow and submit to their russian overlords or die.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 979.

    @Nanouk:Ukraine can do a few of things 1:There is no reason for Ukraine to delay elections for so long,do them now.2:drop dual nationality,anybody who isnt solely Ukrainian should apply for a visa.3:Russia says there are no Russian combatants in Ukraine so they will be ok if Ukraine passes an emergency law that applies an automatic life sentence to any non-Ukrainian combatants found in Ukraine.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 978.

    Alan @ 957
    "Russia should never be able to play in European football or any other European sports as quite clearly they hate us."

    ABSOLUTE RUBBISH!!!!

    It's the BBC's Russophobic stance that needs to banned.
    Look how they tried to get the Olympics boycotted yet made billions out of televising it.

    People like you create hatred.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 977.

    @943. wellingtonman @961 Dragonwhite

    I think BBC is rating everyone's comments here. I tried to rate a bunch, same thing, nothing happened. And Dragonwhite, I am not writing from Russia, and my IP shows this to whoever reads (and probably rates) the postings. And this is not the first time I cannot rate anyone. I suspect ideological censorship. Sorry, BBC, no Putin-bashing from me... ((

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 976.

    Time the west got real THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO. Fine words from western politicians mean nothing and furthermore have no effect other than to make thing worst by giving false hopes to some in Ukraine. If Russia turn off the gas much of Europe will shut down in days so we have no economic levers to pull and there are no military options open to the west as we will not go to war with Russia.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 975.

    If Russia was a true democracy and Putin was a true statesman, this could be resolved pretty quickly. Unfortunately, neither is true and the Ukrainian people will suffer the consequences.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 974.

    So when theres protesters battling police with guns and molotov cocktails in kiev they're fighting for democracy' but as soon as some people in eastern Ukraine do the same thing they're branded terrorists and separatists, The BBC's anti Russia propaganda is staggering, funny how they never report on the racist antisemetic Svoboda party who have come into a lot of power since the uprising in Kiev

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 973.

    @ 965. 0racle & 963. corncobuk:

    He shouldn't have reneged on that EU deal then that had been in the making for years. It was irresponsible of him to to do, it started the unrest so he brought that upon himself. When Farage gets elected and reneges on an EU referendum you'll do exactly the same.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 972.

    Currently it looks like there is a perspective of natural division of influence over Ukraine between Russia, US and EU - with Russia largely influencing Eastern Ukraine, US largely influencing Central Ukraine (including Kiev), EU - Western Ukraine and Russia/US sharing most influence on Southern Ukraine. But if US appear too uncooperative/aggressive it may lose its share either to Russia or to EU.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 971.

    Russia is abviously not a democracy. Why can't the leaders of Russia be like our leaders?

    At least our democratic leaders listen to the people, for example when we the people of the democratic free West tell our leaders not to mess with Ukraine/Russia, they won't.

    Right? Aren't you happy we live in a democracy?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 970.

    Why are they burying the dead in Sloviansk if two of the dead are the "attackers" who aren't from there? Hiding the evidence maybe?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 969.

    952.
    jauntycyclist
    Nonsense The USA have troops in 71 countries through out the world mostly seeing how they can benefit the USA, you don't honestly believe they are there to "help" the population of those countries do you? The world has had its stomach full of the USA's benevolent interference, ask Iraq or Libya or Syria.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 968.

    962.Dave : Enough with 'Russian' people in Ukraine. They are ethnic Russians with Ukrainian passports, like the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria, and the ethnic Pakistani, Indian, etc. in the UK. Russia created a precedent with Crimea that is more dangerous than US military interventions in the Middle East. Do you know how many ethnic conflicts this can stir in Europe? But hey, it's the West's fault.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 967.

    Just a technical point about rankings.

    When you click up, it could go down - and vice versa. The BBC has no control over this.

    Changes are cached then logged (cookie ID) before being sent to scoring procedures. So three downs could be stored in a cache before you click up. This could 'show' you having clicked down twice instead of clicking up once.

    Confused?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 966.

    #940 - There is a fundamental difference between Kosovo and Ukraine; the Serbs were conducting a war of ethnic cleansing on the Kosovo Albanians in order to achieve their aim of removing that gene pool from the area. That has not happened anywhere in the Ukraine, including Crimea. Therefore you can't remotely compare the two events.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 965.

    @958.It_s yerself

    I'm sure if you feared for your life or freedom you would stay to face the fascist louts hired by the US (check BBC for validity). Whichever way you paint it the US ousted a legitimately elected president. It's not the first time they have done so. At least one was murdered.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 964.

    Americans are God freaks. What more do you need to know?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 963.

    958.
    It_s yerself
    1 Minute ago

    Yanukovich forfeited any rights he had when he left his post. It was his decision to leave. Parliament hd to act in the best way they could and, admirably, they did.

    ---

    Not in law he didn`t. He had the legality and was forced from his post. The Verkhovna Rada’s (parliament) vote to dismiss Yanukovych contradicts the Ukraine Constitution making it a criminal act.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 962.

    It's a very sad state of affairs. Russians and Ukrainians were very brotherly nations, their languages and cultures are similar. The West stick their noses in and turn the region into a warzone. The former allies are now enemies, cannot travel freely across the borders, Russia has demanded Crimea back, other areas with Russian people are demanding independance or re-joining Russia.

 

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