Kerry To Hold Talks In Ukraine

kerryAs fighting intensifies in Ukraine, the Unites States Secretary of State, John Kerry, is expected to arrive in the country to hold talks with President Petro Poroshenkom, and his Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk.

A superior source said that Kerry would offer U.S. support for efforts by Ukraine to negotiate a new ceasefire.

The issue of weapon deliveries to Ukraine and other U.S. assistance is expected to be one of the main items on the agenda.

Kerry also intends to provide an additional $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid to help civilians in eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials said.

Earlier, Ashton Carter, the White House’s choice for Defence Secretary, said that he was “inclined” to start supplying arms.

The U.S. has so far only provided “non-lethal” assistance to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, NATO is set to unveil what the bloc’s chief says are “the biggest reinforcement” of its “collective defense since the end of the cold war”.

However, Russia denies accusations by Ukraine and the west that it is arming the rebels in Eastern Ukraine and sending its regular troops across the border.

Biden Warns On Ukraine As Russia Dismisses Sanctions Threat

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk attend a media briefing in Kiev

 U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, told Russia on Tuesday that “time is short” for action on defusing the crisis in eastern Ukraine, but Moscow said it could handle any tougher economic sanctions the West might impose.

Speaking on a visit to Kiev, Biden called on Moscow to pull back troops built up on Ukraine’s borders and to “stop talking and start acting” on getting Russian separatists who have seized control in eastern towns and cities to disarm.

The United States has repeatedly warned Russia it faces “mounting costs” if it fails to ensure full implementation of an international agreement struck last week on calming the crisis. This stipulates the rebels must leave the government buildings that they have occupied in the past two weeks.

Russia has in turn accused the Ukrainian government of stirring up the trouble and told Washington it must influence Kiev to prevent “hotheads” from provoking a bloody conflict.

Biden, however, put the onus on Moscow. “We’ve heard a lot from Russian officials in the past few days. But now it’s time for Russia to stop talking and start acting,” he told a news conference. “We will not allow this to become an open ended process. Time is short in which to make progress.”

Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the eastern rebellion have deepened the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War, and Biden demanded the removal of Russian forces near Ukraine’s frontier which Moscow insists are merely on exercises.

“No nation should threaten its neighbors by amassing troops along the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces,” Biden said after meeting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.

Moscow denies it is orchestrating the militants, who say they want the chance to join Crimea in becoming part of Russia following the overthrow of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich after months of street protests in Kiev.

But Washington, which signed last week’s accord in Geneva along with Moscow, Kiev and the European Union, has said it would decide “in days” on additional sanctions if Russia does not take steps to implement the agreement.

In Moscow, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the country could deal with tougher measures if necessary.

“We shan’t give up on cooperation with foreign companies, including from Western countries, but we will be ready for unfriendly steps,” he told parliament.

“I am sure we can minimize their impact,” he said. “We will not allow our citizens to become hostages of political games.”

So far the United States and EU have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on only a limited number of Russians over the annexation of Crimea last month.

Medvedev said some Russian banks had been shut out of international payments systems, calling this “a violation of existing agreements” which “must not go unpunished”.