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Biden: US Will Help Ukraine Defend Itself if Necessary

Russia, Western Powers Trade Accusations Over Ukraine
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Russia, Western Powers Trade Accusations Over Ukraine

The United States wants a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine but will continue to provide Kyiv with "security assistance," not to encourage war but to allow it to defend itself against Russia, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Biden said Russia's President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly vowed to work for peace but instead had delivered "tanks, troops and weapons" to the conflict. He said Russia should be judged by its deeds, rather than its words.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had "no doubt" that the United States would send economic help and what he called aid of "other kinds" to Ukraine.

In an interview to be fully aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Kerry said the United States would be helping Ukraine with the understanding that there is no military solution.

"The solution is a political, diplomatic one," Kerry said. "But President Putin's got to make the decision to take an off-ramp" on support for the separatists. "And we have to make it clear to him that we are absolutely committed to the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, no matter what."

NATO's top commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said at the conference that the West should not rule out sending weapons to the Ukrainian military — an option German Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly opposes. She said more weapons would not resolve the conflict.

Poroshenko bemoans 'spiraling tragedy'

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also spoke at the Munich conference, holding up several Russian passports that he said had been collected from Russian soldiers many kilometers inside Ukraine's border.

"This is the best evidence for the aggression and the presence of Russian troops," he said.

Poroshenko said more than 5,600 civilians had been killed in the conflict since last April and called the conflict "a spiraling tragedy for my nation."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) listen to French President Francois Hollande during a meeting on resolving the Ukraine crisis at the Kremlin in Moscow February 6, 2015.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) listen to French President Francois Hollande during a meeting on resolving the Ukraine crisis at the Kremlin in Moscow February 6, 2015.

Talks among the leaders of Russia, France and Germany on a peace initiative ended early Saturday in Moscow without firm results. But a Russian spokesman said work on the plan to end the fighting was going forward.

A senior U.S. State Department official said the French-German plan to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine was based on September's failed cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus.

"What is different is there is a bit more detail around how it will be implemented and more of a road map on timing, but it is broadly consistent with Minsk," the official told reporters in Munich.

French President Francois Hollande has described the plan as "one of the last chances" to end the fighting in Ukraine.

Germany's Merkel said at the Munich conference that it was unclear whether the peace plan would succeed, but that "it is worth making this attempt. At the very least, we owe it to the people in Ukraine."

Russia criticizes Western stance

While in Munich, Kerry met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for talks on the French-German plan.

Lavrov said a deal to end the conflict was still possible, but he had stinging criticism for the U.S. and European stance on Ukraine, saying they had taken steps to escalate the conflict.

"Our Western partners issued indulgences and pardoned the Kyiv authorities who started a full-scale military operation, calling their citizens terrorists," he said, referring to Ukrainians who agree with the pro-Russian separatists.

The Ukraine crisis is high on the agenda at the three-day security conference in Munich, which ends Sunday. The conference has drawn world leaders, diplomats and defense officials.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities reported that five soldiers were killed in clashes with separatists Saturday in eastern Ukraine, near the port city of Mariupol. The French news agency AFP reported that seven civilians were also killed.

Fighting in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east near the Russian border surged after the breakdown of peace initiatives last week.

VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins contributed to this report.

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