- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vice President Joseph R. Biden mostly has had friendly words for the Ukrainians since arriving in Kiev on Monday, but the outspoken former senator also has a blunt message for the country’s leaders — clean up corruption in your ranks.

Speaking to Ukrainian legislators on Tuesday morning, Mr. Biden — the highest-ranking American official to visit Kiev since the current crisis began — pledged the full support of the U.S. as the new Ukrainian government seeks to fend off Russian aggression. He also said that for Ukraine to truly move forward, it must weed out poisonous elements in its political realm.

“To be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now. It’s not just the United States,” Mr. Biden said.

“You need a court system that not only you and your people, but the rest of the world assumed can actually adjudicate fairly disputes among people,” he said. “But you have a chance. You have a chance. The constitutional reforms that you are envisioning now are ones that some of you have fought for in various ways your entire career, a balance of power between the parliament and the president.”

Despite a peace agreement reached last week, violence has continued to flare in eastern Ukraine as pro-Russian gunmen refuse to vacate government buildings. The violence claimed three lives on Sunday and has ratcheted up tensions between Kiev and Moscow, with the U.S. desperately trying to hold together a peace deal and prevent more bloodshed.

Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for the most recent flare-up.

The U.S. is prepared to impose further economic sanctions on Russian leaders, should they continue to foment unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The Obama administration also is preparing additional aid packages for Ukraine, including providing American energy experts to help Ukraine wean itself off of Russian natural gas.

“There’s no reason why you cannot be energy secure. I mean, there isn’t. It will take time. It takes some difficult decisions, but it’s collectively within your power and the power of Europe and the United States. And we stand ready to assist you in reaching that,” Mr. Biden said. “Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia — keep your gas. It would be a very different world you’d be facing today. It’s within our power to alter that.”

Mr. Biden also met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Tuesday. The new Ukrainian government will hold elections on May 25, which Mr. Biden called “the most important election in Ukrainian history.”



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