Russia has “days, not weeks” to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.
Biden, the highest-ranking American official to visit Ukraine during its conflict with Russia, planned to meet with government officials in the capital of Kiev today. The vice president also planned to announce new technical support to help the fledgling government with energy and economic reforms.
Biden’s trip comes days after the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and Europe signed an agreement in Geneva calling for Moscow to use its influence to get pro-Russian forces to leave the numerous government buildings they now occupy in cites throughout eastern Ukraine. The U.S. asserted Monday that publicly available photographs from Twitter and other media show that some of the troops in eastern Ukraine are Russian special forces, and the U.S. said the photos support its case that Moscow is using its military to stir unrest in Ukraine.
There was no way to immediately verify the photographs, which either were taken from the Internet or given to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last week by Ukraine diplomats.
In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected charges that Moscow was behind the troubles in eastern Ukraine and failing to live up to the Geneva agreement.
“Before putting forth ultimatums to us, demanding fulfillment of something within two-three days or otherwise be threatened with sanctions, we would urgently call on our American partners to fully recognize responsibility for those whom they brought to power and whom they are trying to shield, closing their eyes to the outrages created by this regime and by the fighters on whom this regime leans,” Lavrov told a news conference.
Words and actions by Ukrainian leaders are “absolutely unacceptable,” he declared.
The U.S. has warned that it will quickly order new economic sanctions on Russian officials and entities if Moscow doesn’t follow through on the provisions in last week’s accord.