By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– U.S Vice President Joe Biden has warned Russia to end what he called the illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula as the West is preparing more sanctions against Russian officials. During his visit to Ukraine, he also unveiled a multi-million dollar aid package to support the country’s embattled government, while urging Kyiv to crackdown on rampant corruption.
After talks with government officials, Biden urged Moscow to in his words “stop talking and start acting” to disarm pro-Russian separatists in the east. Kyiv has accused Moscow of supporting separatists to undermine next month’s presidential elections.
Biden made clear that in his view Ukraine must remain a united country, without racial or religious discrimination. “Ukraine is and must remain one country, from Lviv to Kharkiv, down to the Black Sea. One country… And we will never recognise Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and neither will the world,” he stressed.
His views were shared by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who pledged that upcoming presidential elections would go ahead despite Moscow’s alleged efforts to get it called off.
Vice President Biden also announced the United States would provide an additional $50 million in assistance to Ukraine, including $11.4 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential poll, and to help the nation reduce its reliance on Russian energy supplies.
He also unveiled a modest increase of $8 million in nonlethal security aid to the troubled Ukrainian armed forces and border guards, who are now confronting pro-Russian groups in the country’s eastern regions.
The aid includes bomb-disposal equipment, vehicles, radio as well as other communications gear, and comes on top of a $10 million package announced earlier, though Biden warned that Kyiv must tackle what he called the “cancer of corruption”, plaguing this former Soviet nation.
Biden’s remarks came while hundreds of residents of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk came to the Church of the Holy Spirit on Tuesday for the funerals of three men killed in a shootout at a roadblock manned by pro-Russian separatists on Easter Sunday.
Amid the turmoil, the European Union is considering more sanctions on Russia, including reducing the import of Russian natural gas.
Yet, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said his nation would not be intimidated.
“We are interested in diversifying today more so than ever before,” he told Russian legislators in televised remarks. “Therefore we are implementing solutions for the export of gas and oil to Asian and Pacific countries, first and foremost China, but also Japan and other countries,” the minister added.
Currently about a third of Europe’s natural gas is supplied by Russia, but Britain says Moscow has been using its status as an energy superpower to hold other, especially Eastern European countries, to ransom.