Vice President Joe Biden told the Kremlin during a visit Friday to Ukraine that the United States will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and warned Moscow that it faces greater isolation if it continues its “provocative action.”
Biden was in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on the first anniversary of the “Maidan” revolution that brought hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets for three months before President Viktor Yanukovich was driven from office on Feb. 21.
Ukraine has since been torn apart by a pro-Russia rebellion in the east of the country and the loss of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized days after its loyal ally Yanukovich was forced to flee.
Biden called on Russia to withdraw its troops and armaments from eastern Ukraine and cease the “aggression” threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“But that has not happened,” he lamented in a speech after meeting with Ukrainian leaders. “Instead we’ve seen more provocative action, more blatant disregard for the agreement signed not long ago by Russia. As long as that continues Russia will face rising cost, greater isolation.”
The fighting in eastern Ukraine was spurred by the Crimea annexation and Kiev’s turn toward Western Europe for trade and political alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin had been pushing the Moscow-dominated Eurasian Union of former Soviet states as an alternative to the European Union, and Yanukovich’s unilateral decision a year ago to keep Ukraine in Moscow’s orbit sparked the Maidan protests.
Moscow’s seizure of Crimea, home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, cleaved vital ports, bases, resorts and 2 million citizens from Ukrainian government control.
“It is simply not acceptable in the 21st century for countries to attempt to redraw borders by force in Europe or anywhere, or to intervene militarily because they don’t like decisions their neighbor has made,” Biden said.
At a news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Biden said Russia’s behavior in Ukraine “represents a flagrant violation of the bedrock principles of our international system,” according to a text of his comments posted on the U.S. Embassy website.
Biden called Nov. 2 elections held in separatist-occupied eastern Ukraine “a Kremlin-orchestrated farce.”
“Let me say as clearly and categorically as I can, America does not and will not recognize Russian occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. We do not, will not, and insist others do not accept this illegal annexation,” Biden said.
In an earlier meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, Biden said the country’s Western allies would “increase the costs to Russia if it continues on its current course of blatantly violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Putin has deflected all accusations of Russian support for the separatists, claiming his forces aren’t involved, despite widespread reports and satellite imagery of armored convoys flooding into Ukraine from Russian territory.
The U.N. human rights agency in Geneva on Thursday reported that the death toll from seven months of fighting in eastern Ukraine had surpassed 4,300.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Biden had taken the first three of 20 counter-mortar radar arrays with him for Ukraine, part of the nonlethal military assistance the U.S. is providing Kiev to boost its defenses.
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