U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has told Ukraine’s parliament that Western pressure on Russia will increase if Moscow continues its “aggression” against Kyiv.
“If Russian aggression persists, the cost imposed on Moscow will continue to rise,” Biden said on December 8 in a rare appearance by a top Western official before the Ukrainian parliament.
“The U.S. will maintain pressure until Moscow fulfills its [peace deal] commitments,” he said. “Despite some deescalation in violence, there can be no sanctions relief unless until Russia meets all of its commitments under the [February] Minsk agreements.”
He also directly accused Moscow of sending troops to fight with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and trying to hide that action from the Russian public and the world.
“I don’t think the Russian people understand fully what Putin is doing. That’s why he spends so much time hiding at home the presence of troops here in your country,” he told the Ukrainian lawmakers.
Biden is in Kyiv on his fourth visit since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and gave its backing to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
He told the parliament that “Russia is occupying sovereign Ukrainian territory” in Crimea and has violated international law by illegally seizing the Ukrainian peninsula.
Biden said “the United States will never recognize” Russia’s annexation of Crimea and will continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression.
The U.S. vice president also told the lawmakers that they have “an obligation to their homeland to answer the call of history” and build a united democratic nation that “stands through time.”
“It is no exaggeration to say the hopes of freedom-loving people the world over are with you, because so much rides on your fragile experiment with democracy succeeding,” Biden said. “It is equally important, by the way, for aggressors around the world to understand they can’t use coercion, bribery, sending tanks and men across the border to extinguish the dreams of a people.”
Biden said each lawmaker will be judged by future generations upon whether they put the greater good of all Ukrainian people over local interests that have divided the country.
He urged Ukraine to make painful but crucial reforms to make governance more transparent, noting that “corruption eats Ukraine like cancer.”
Biden met with President Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv on December 7 and announced new financial aid of $190 million to help Ukraine implement reforms.
He said after meeting Poroshenko that “Ukraine is on the cusp — what happens in the next year is likely to determine the fate of the country for generations.”
He also met on December 7 with some individual members of parliament and from civic society, as well as with Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko.
Biden arrived in the Ukrainian capital late on December 6.
The United States and European Union, along with Kyiv, accuse Russia of seizing Crimea and backing the separatist revolt in reprisal for the February 2014 ouster of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych following months of antigovernment protests.
The protests were fueled by anger over rampant corruption and Yanukovych’s abandonment of negotiations toward an Association Agreement with the EU amid Russian pressure.
In response to Russia’s actions, Washington and Brussels have placed economic sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and have helped train and equip Ukraine’s underfunded army with defensive equipment such as advanced radar.