Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Ukraine on April 22 to show Washington’s support for the new government in Kiev, as tensions between authorities and eastern separatists threatened to deepen the country’s political crisis.
Biden’s visit to the Ukraine would be a sign of America’s support “for a united, democratic Ukraine that makes its own choices about its future path,” the White House said on Saturday.
Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russia that it would face "additional consequences" if it fails to pull its troops back from the Ukraine border.
A first wave of US sanctions unveiled in March blacklisted officials and others close to Russian President Vladimir Putin to protest Moscow's takeover of Crimea.
Authorities in Kiev and US leaders have accused Moscow of aggression in Ukraine’s restive east, where separatists occupied two security building brandishing assault rifles on Saturday.
Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on Sunday announced the start of an ‘anti-terrorist' operation in the eastern town of Slavyansk, where pro-Russian militants seized the local headquarters of state security the previous day.
The raid operations appeared to have been a coordinated move and came amid spreading protests demanding the region to come under control of the Kremlin.
FRANCE 24’s correspondent Julia Lyubova said many people in the city of Sloviansk, where masked gunmen took control of a police building, were calling for independence for the region and rejected the government in Kiev.
“But there are also some people that say they don’t want Ukraine to be split and don’t want to be a part of Russia,” Lyubova added.
Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his facebook page that he considered the invasion of the government buildings "a display of aggression by the Russian Federation."
Ukraine's interim government has been facing relentless pressure from Russia since its February ouster of an unpopular Kremlin-backed president and decision to seek closer ties with the West.
The seizures highlight how little sway Kiev's untested leaders have over pro-Russians who have since April 6 also controlled the Donetsk government seat and a state security building in the nearby eastern city of Lugansk.
Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's eastern border after annexing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and nearly doubled the rates it charges Kiev for gas.
A note sent by Putin on Thursday cautioning that gas transits through Ukraine may cease due to Kiev's debts to Moscow.
‘Potential for violent clashes’
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday called on all sides in the Ukraine crisis to "exercise maximum restraint" and engage in dialogue to de-escalate the situation there.
Ban is "deeply concerned" about the deteriorating situation and "growing potential for violent clashes," a UN statement said.
The secretary general "appeals to all sides to work towards calming the situation, adhere to the rule of law and exercise maximum restraint," the statement added.
He also "calls again for urgent and constructive dialogue to de-escalate the situation and address all differences."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-13