KIEV, Ukraine — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday launched a high-profile visit to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and push for urgent implementation of an international agreement aimed at de-escalating tensions even as violence continues.
Biden planned to meet Tuesday with government leaders who took over after pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February following months of protests. The White House said President Barack Obama and Biden agreed he should make the two-day visit to the capital city to send a high-level signal of support for reform efforts being pushed the new government.
Biden has scheduled a series of meetings Tuesday, including with Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian prime minister and president. He also is scheduled to meet with legislators from across the country and democracy activists before returning to Washington Tuesday night.
A senior administration official told reporters onboard Air Force Two en route to Kiev that Biden plans to announce new technical support to the Ukrainian government to implement energy and economic reforms. The official, speaking on a condition of anonymity to allow Biden to publicly announce any agreements, said the vice president also will follow up on recent U.S. commitments of non-lethal security assistance and discuss what more Washington can offer to help.
Biden also plans to discuss preparations for next month's presidential election and the latest developments in eastern Ukraine, where insurgents are accusing leaders in Kiev of aiming to suppress the country's Russian speakers concentrated in the region.
His trip comes a day after a shootout at a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine manned by the pro-Russia insurgents left at least three dead and Ukrainian and Russian officials trading accusations of blame. The armed clash followed Thursday's announcement in Geneva that talks between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union produced an agreement to take tentative steps toward calming a volatile situation in eastern Ukraine.