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Biden Shows Support for Kyiv as Tensions Escalate in Eastern Ukraine

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has called on Russia to live up to its recent agreement to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, as tensions between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine continued to escalate.

During a joint appearance Tuesday with interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kyiv, Biden said it is time for Russia "to stop talking and start acting" on commitments it made last week during international talks in Geneva to withdraw support for pro-Russian separatist forces who have taken over government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. vice president said Ukraine "is and must remain one country" and the the United States would not let Ukraine "walk down this road alone." Biden said the United States would provide Ukraine's government with an additional $50 million, including $11 million to help fund the May 25 presidential election.

The White House says the United States will also provide Kyiv with $8 million in non-lethal military aid, including communications equipment and vehicles.

Later Tuesday, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov called for anti-terrorist operations to be relaunched in eastern Ukraine. He said the bodies of two people, including a member of his own political party who was abducted last week (Volodymyr Rybak), had been found near the city of Slovyansk, which is in the hands of pro-Russian terrorists.

Mr. Turchynov said the victims had been "brutally tortured" and that such crimes are being committed "with with the full support and connivance of the Russian Federation."

Meanwhile, the Russian news website on Tuesday quoted the so-called "people's mayor" of Slovyansk as saying an American journalist, Simon Ostrovsky, had been taken into custody by pro-Russian militiamen.

The media outlet for which Ostrovsky works, VICE News, said in statement that it is "in contact with the U.S. State Department and other appropriate government authorities to secure the safety and security of our friend and colleague, Simon Ostrovsky."

Ukraine and Russia blame each other for a deadly shooting Sunday at a checkpoint in Slovyansk, shattering an Easter truce. Three people were killed.

The U.S. State Department has released photographs it says shows Russian special forces in eastern Ukraine. It says Ukrainian diplomats gave U.S. officials the pictures.

Russia has denied having any soldiers in Ukraine. It says all the pro-Russian separatists are locals.

The pro-Russians are demanding the right to hold referendums on splitting with Ukraine and joining with Russia. A vote last month in Crimea led to the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

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