'Stop Supporting Men Hiding Behind Masks,' Biden Tells Russia
Looking to show U.S. support for the new government in Ukraine as it tries to fend off further Russian incursions into its territory, Vice President Biden said in Kiev on Tuesday that it is time for Russia to "stop supporting men hiding behind masks and unmarked uniforms sowing unrest in eastern Ukraine."
Referring to the agreement that the U.S., Ukraine, European Union and Russia reached last week to hopefully resolve the crisis in Ukraine, Biden said that "it's time for Russia to stop talking and start acting" by putting pressure on pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to lay down their arms and leave government buildings they're occupying.
Also Tuesday, Biden told Ukrainian lawmakers that the U.S. will "never recognize Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea." CNN adds that "as he spoke, the White House announced a $50 million package of assistance to help Ukraine pursue political and economic reform and strengthen its partnership with the United States."
Russia has insisted that separatists in eastern Ukraine are not getting help from Russian forces or military advisers. Those denials, though, echo what Russia said during the days before Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation. That region was then annexed by Russia last month. It wasn't until last week that Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded that "Crimean self-defense forces were of course backed by Russian servicemen."
Update at 5:25 p.m. ET:
"Ukraine's acting president accused Russia of aiding 'terrorists' who killed a politician from his own party, urging a crackdown in the east on Tuesday that could hamper international efforts to defuse the crisis.
"As Vice President Joe Biden flew home from a brief visit to demonstrate solidarity with Kiev's new leaders against Moscow, Oleksander Turchinov called on security forces to relaunch an operation against pro-Russian separatists that was suspended after a deal with Moscow last week on disarming militants."