Threatens Moscow with more sanctions if activists are not disarmed

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has accused Russia of “trying to pull Ukraine apart” and warned Moscow that it faced “more costs and greater isolation.”

Mr Biden has also pledged Washington’s strong support for Kiev’s pro-Western leaders in opposing “the ongoing threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“There are those who are trying to pull Ukraine apart,” Mr Biden said in clear reference to Russia.

Mr Biden became the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Kiev since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a coup in which over 100 protesters and police died.

“We call on Russia to stop supporting men hiding behind masks in unmarked uniforms sowing unrest in eastern Ukraine,” Mr Biden told a joint press conference with Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev.

The U.S. Vice President threatened Russia with further sanctions if it fails to get the anti-government protesters in Ukraine’s southeast to disarm and vacate the offices they occupy.

“We have been clear that more provocative behavior will lead to more costs and greater isolation,” Mr Biden said.

“Time is short to make progress,” he warned, adding that the U.S. will not allow the standoff in eastern Ukraine “to become an open-ended process.”

Mr Biden praised Kiev’s leaders for their efforts in implementing the April 17 Geneva agreement on Ukraine, mentioning a bill to amnesty pro-Russian protesters and “considerable progress on constitutional reform and decentralisation.”

However, he said nothing about Kiev’s failure to disarm the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, which is suspected of staging armed provocations against protesters in eastern Ukraine. During his visit to Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday Mr Biden shook hands with Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of racist Svoboda party, which is part of the ruling coalition in Ukraine’s Parliament.

Mr Biden’s failure to say anything about a military operation Kiev has mounted against the protesters in the east was seen by Ukrainian leaders as encouragement to press on with the crackdown.

Following his talks with Mr Biden, Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered a resumption of the “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern provinces, which had been suspended for the Eastern holidays.

“I demand the resumption of effective counter-terrorism measures to protect Ukrainian citizens in the east from terrorism,” Mr Turchynov’s office quoted him as saying.

Mr Biden assured the new government in Kiev that the U.S. would “stand with you and the Ukrainian people,” but offered only a measly $58 million in financial assistance to Ukraine, which needs $35 billion over the next two years just to avoid bankruptcy.

Mr Biden also mentioned $1 billion in loan guarantees the U.S. approved earlier and Washington’s support for a $14-billion package from the International Monetary Fund.

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