U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says $190 million in new U.S. aid to Ukraine will help the country implement reforms and fight corruption.
"It’s absolutely critical for Ukraine, in order to be stable and prosperous and part of a secure Europe, to definitely, thoroughly completely root out the cancer of corruption," Biden said in Kyiv on Monday during a joint briefing with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko following bilateral talks.
"That means ramping up the pace of reforms, avoidance of past practices, advancing good governance, increasing transparency across the board at every level of the government and strengthening the rule of law," he added.
Poroshenko has overseen the dismissals of nearly 4,000 graft-tainted prosecutors since taking office in May 2014. Last week, he also introduced a special anti-corruption prosecutor whose responsibilities will include rooting out graft and limiting the political power of shadowy business tycoons long seen as obstructing good government practices in the former Soviet republic.
US ‘stands firmly’ with Ukraine
During their joint briefing Monday, Biden also said the U.S. "stands firmly with the people of Ukraine" in the face of "continued aggression" by Russia and Russia-backed separatists. He said the best way to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine is through the "diplomatic framework" laid out in an agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus, by representatives of the Ukrainian and Russian governments, and the separatists.
"Minsk cannot succeed if Russia does not fulfill its commitment and President Putin fails to live up to the promises he has repeatedly made to my president, to you and to the international community,” Biden said, adding that Russia is "systematically violating" the cease-fire agreed to in Minsk.
Despite the cease-fire, sporadic fighting between government troops and pro-Russian rebels continues in eastern Ukraine, after more than 18 months of combat and nearly 8,000 deaths, most of them civilians.
Earlier Monday, Biden met with former world boxing champion and now Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko and congratulated him on adopting important police, transparency and procurement reforms in the capital city. He will meet later in the day with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Fourth visit since early 2014
Biden's two-day visit - his fourth since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in early 2014 - comes ahead of formal U.S. approval of a third $1 billion bailout loan guarantee.
The Obama administration already has provided $470 million in direct economic assistance since pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power nearly two years ago, after weeks of anti-government protests in Kyiv.
Key U.S. officials say that during his visit, Biden will seek to reassure Kyiv that Washington will continue an array of economic sanctions against Russia, until Moscow and its Ukrainian rebel allies fully meet their obligation under the Minsk agreement to end the conflict and pull back heavy weapons.
Senior officials say Biden also will stress that recent U.S. overtures aimed at gaining cooperation from Russian President Vladimir Putin in the fight against Islamic extremists in Syria will in no way affect Western support for Kyiv.