Biden in Ukraine as tensions remain high in Country’s east

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Ukraine for talks with the acting president and prime minister as the situation in the country’s east remains tense despite a deal reached last week in Geneva aimed at easing the crisis.

Biden’s trip to Kyiv, the highest level visit from a U.S. official since the start of the crisis here, was born out of discussions with President Barack Obama, said an administration official briefing reporters on Biden’s plane.

“[Vice President Biden] wanted to come to Kyiv to send a very clear message
of the United States’ support for Ukraine’s democracy, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said the official.

“He will call for urgent implementation of the agreement reached in Geneva last week while also making clear … that there will be mounting costs for Russia if they choose a destabilizing rather than constructive course in the days ahead,” the official said.

White House officials earlier said Biden will discuss the international community’s efforts to help Ukraine move forward on constitutional reform, and for what Obama administration officials say will be a free and fair presidential election on May 25.

In addition, Biden is to announce new economic and energy-related technical assistance for Ukraine during his two-day visit to Kyiv, said an administration official.

The two-day talks will also focus on the situation in eastern Ukraine where an Easter Sunday truce barely lasted a few hours before it was shattered by a gunfight at a checkpoint in the city of Slovyansk, controlled by pro-Russia separatists. According to some accounts, three people were killed although the circumstances remain unclear.

Ukraine blames the attack on Russian special forces, which Kyiv says have infiltrated the eastern part of the country in an effort to destabilize it.