Biden in Ukraine as tensions rise

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, and US Vice President Joe Biden shake hands before a statement after their talks in Kiev on Friday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, and US Vice President Joe Biden shake hands before a statement after their talks in Kiev on Friday.

KIEV: US Vice-President Joe Biden warned on a visit to Kiev Friday that Russia risked further isolation over its “unacceptable” aggression in Ukraine.

“It’s simply unacceptable in the 21st century for countries to attempt to redraw borders by force… because they don’t like a decision their neighbor has made,” he said after meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

He warned that Russia had failed to fulfil its commitments under agreements struck in September, adding: “So long as that continues, Russia will face rising costs, greater isolation.”

Moscow denies offering military support to separatists locked in a struggle for territory in eastern Ukraine but the West accuses Russia of involvement, sending diplomatic relations to a post-Cold War low.

Ukraine’s leaders had hoped Biden would use his visit to announce further US assistance for its forces in the east.

The US has so far limited its security support to non-lethal assistance but Kiev wants it to go further and offer weapons and ammunition.

Biden made no direct mention of increasing assistance to Ukraine during the press conference.

But a statement from his office said that the White House was pledging a further $20 million (16 million euros) to support reforms in law enforcement and justice, plus $3 million more for food rations and displaced people.

That brings to nearly $320 million it has committed this year.

Ukraine accused Russia of shelling from across the border Friday, stepping up tensions as Biden visited Kiev on the first anniversary of mass protests which triggered a year of turmoil.

On a frantic day of diplomacy, Ukraine’s leaders also announced the formation of a five-party Parliamentary coalition involving the groupings of President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

The coalition will, for the first time, be strong enough to pass amendments to the constitution and comes after elections in October.

Ukraine’s government hopes Biden will use his visit to announce further US assistance for its forces, locked in a drawn-out struggle with pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The US has so far limited its support to non-lethal security assistance but Kiev wants it to go further and offer weapons and ammunition.

As Biden met Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, Kiev claimed that shelling was taking place from across the Russian border for the first time since a tattered cease-fire was signed in September.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that in the past day, artillery was fired at a border post in Lugansk region from the direction of Manotsky in Russia’s Rostov region.

 
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