Ukraine crisis: Joe Biden warns Russia ‘time is short’ for it to ease tensions

US Vice-President threatens Moscow with further sanctions if it does not comply with Geneva Accord

US Editor

The sparring between Russia and the West over the turmoil in eastern Ukraine intensified as United States Vice-President Joe Biden told Moscow that “time is short” for it to comply with an accord reached in Geneva last week on lowering tensions in the region if it is to avoid new punitive sanctions.

Worsening the tensions, the acting Ukrainian president, Oleksander Turchynov, vowed to intervene after the discovery of the body of a politician from his own party in the city of Slovyansk. The victim, he said, had been “brutally tortured”. “These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation,” he said. “I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists.”

As Mr Biden made his remarks on a high-profile visit to Kiev, the Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, told parliament in Moscow he was confident the country could “minimise” the impact of additional sanctions. “We will not allow our citizens to become hostages of political games,” he added.

 

The accord hammered out in Geneva by Western powers, Russia and Ukraine last week appeared to be on life-support. Pro-Russia militants in several cities in eastern Ukraine have refused to lay down their arms and remain in control of several government buildings. Kiev said that one of its spotter planes in the area had been struck by bullets but had landed safely.

While Moscow denies it is encouraging the rebellion, Mr Biden, who has returned to Washington, insisted the onus was on Moscow to end the crisis. “We’ve heard a lot from Russian officials in the past few days. But now it’s time for Russia to stop talking and start acting,” he told reporters. “We will not allow this to become an open- ended process. Time is short in which to make progress.”

He also called on President Vladimir Putin to pull back Russian troops deployed close to Ukraine’s border in Russia. “No nation should threaten its neighbours by amassing troops along the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces,” he said after meeting the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk.

Tonight the US said it was sending troops to eastern Europe. On Monday officials in Washington said they would act “within days” to intensify sanctions on Russia if progress on implementing the Geneva pact is not made. But in Brussels, top European Union diplomats signalled that new sanctions, though under preparation, were not imminent. “We are still thinking about giving the Geneva Accord a little bit more time,” one diplomat said.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, confirmed the delay. “Clearly throughout this discussion, what happens in terms of sanctions is very much dependent on what is happening on the ground in Ukraine.”

Even as Mr Biden used his trip to offer symbolic support to the Ukrainian interim government, including pledging $50m more in aid, some of which will be earmarked to fund the elections next month, he also had strong words for its shortcomings, notably regarding endemic graft in the system.

“To be very blunt... you have to fight the cancer of corruption,” he said.

In a meeting with leading members of parliament, including several candidates for the presidency, Biden spoke of the “heroism” of Ukrainians and of the “humiliating threats” they face in trying to create a united nation: “Getting it right is within your grasp,” he said. “And we want to be your partner, your friend in the project. And we’re ready to assist.”

Mr Medvedev confirmed during his parliament speech that Russia is bracing itself for new sanctions from the West over Ukraine. “We will not give up on co-operation with foreign companies, including from Western countries, but we will be ready for unfriendly steps,” he declared.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee