US Vice President Joe Biden yesterday accused Russia of “trying to pull Ukraine apart” and pledged Washington’s support for Kiev.
Biden was speaking in the Ukrainian capital amid worrying signs on the ground that diplomacy is failing to calm the crisis rocking the country.
Pro-Kremlin rebels in Ukraine’s east overnight seized the police station in Kramatorsk, where they already occupy the town hall.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said the new seizure “puts a cross through all the agreements reached in Geneva,” referring to an accord signed last week by Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU designed to de-escalate the volatile situation and prevent it spiralling into war.
Yet the pro-Moscow separatists Kiev and Washington say are backed by Russian forces are ignoring the accord’s demands to disarm and stop seizing buildings. Russia says Kiev’s leaders, whom it says are illegitimate, are to blame for the shattered accord.
Washington has threatened more sanctions on Moscow, with Biden warning yesterday that “Time is short to make progress.”
He added that the US would help Ukraine lessen its dependence on Russian gas, fight corruption and prepare for a May 25 election to choose a new president.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dismissed the threat, telling Russia’s parliament: “I am sure we will be able to minimize their consequences.”
However, he admitted that Russia’s economy is facing an “unprecedented challenge,” while the Russian Ministry of Finance ministry on Monday said the nation could tip into “technical recession” in the next three months.