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US VP Biden Heads to Ukraine to Stress Continued Support


FILE - Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the first U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Commerce Department in Washington, July 13, 2015. He heads to Ukraine next week.

FILE - Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the first U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Commerce Department in Washington, July 13, 2015. He heads to Ukraine next week.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Ukraine early next week to reassure government leaders and reformers of the United States’ continued support “in face of continued Russian military intervention” in the country’s restive east, administration officials said.

Biden, making his fifth visit to Ukraine as vice president, plans to arrive in Kyiv late Sunday evening for a series of meetings early in the week.

On Monday, he’ll meet separately with President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as well as at a roundtable with civil society activists and other reformers.

Speech to lawmakers

Biden also is scheduled to speak Tuesday to the Rada, or congress, a rare opportunity for a foreign leader.

FILE - The Ukraine parliament chambers.

FILE - The Ukraine parliament chambers.

He’s likely to press upon legislators that they “have a special obligation to keep Ukraine moving forward,” a senior administration official said in a telephone briefing Wednesday with reporters.

A major point of discussion will be how to ensure that “Russia and the separatists live up to their obligations under the Minsk Agreement,” the official said.

The pact, reached in February, was meant to de-escalate hostilities in the east. While violence between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russia separatists “has decreased somewhat in recent months,” it continues to flare up, the official said.

The United Nations estimated that nearly 8,000 civilians and soldiers had been killed as of this fall.

Talks with Ukraine officials

Talks with Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are expected to focus on “what additional economic, governance and rule-of-law reforms are necessary,” the official said.

They’ll also touch on U.S.-led training of Ukrainian armed forces and of security assistance overall. The United States has provided $450 million in direct assistance to Ukraine this year, of which more than half is for security, the official said.

FILE - Maidan self-defense activists shout slogans in front of the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv on July 1, 2014, as they call for the ratification of an agreement with the European Union.

FILE - Maidan self-defense activists shout slogans in front of the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv on July 1, 2014, as they call for the ratification of an agreement with the European Union.

Biden’s trip comes after last month’s two-year anniversary of the start of the Maidan uprising, in which public protests in Kyiv for closer ties with Europe eventually forced Russia-leaning President Viktor Yanukovych from office and opened the door for more democratic reforms.

The vice president “will emphasize the need to implement recently passed anti-corruption reforms,” the official said.

Ukraine has set up a special prosecutor’s office for fighting corruption, but the Obama administration previously has said the prosecutor general’s office itself needs reform.

Topic of Crimea

Administration officials also said the vice president would emphasize that the United States continues “to oppose Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea” in March 2014.

He’s also expected to reassure Ukraine that, though the United States is communicating with Russia about the crisis in Syria, it hasn’t softened in its assessment of Russia has crossed the line in Ukraine.

“Nothing in our conversations with Syria impact our assessment that Russia continues to be the aggressor in Ukraine,” the official said. “… Nothing that’s going on in the Middle East has changed one iota of our commitment to the Ukrainian people and to their security.”

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