US Vice President Joe Biden has told leaders in Kyiv that they must "fight the cancer of corruption" in their government. He said Washington stands with them and is ready to provide economic support.
During the first full day of his diplomatic visit to Ukraine on Tuesday, Vice President Biden told political leaders in Kyiv that they face a historic opportunity to build a united Ukraine.
Speaking to a group of several Ukrainians, including three candidates running for president in the May 25 election, Biden assured Washington's backing in the face of "humiliating threats."
"And we want to be your partner and friend in the project. We're ready to assist." However, he also warned that leaders must, "fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now."
Biden said the upcoming election was the most important in the country's history, especially following the referendum in Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that ended with its annexation by Russia.
"This is a second opportunity to make good on the promise of the Orange Revolution," he said referring to 2004 protests that overturned a widely criticized election that had given Viktor Yanukovych the presidency. Yanukovych was ousted in February and left the country following violent protests.
Biden also said it is a US priority to help Ukraine become independent from Russian energy supplies. "Imagine where you'd stand today if you could tell Russia to keep your own gas," he said.
Biden added that the responsibility was firmly on Moscow to fulfill the agreed upon Geneva accord meant to reduce tensions.
Under the deal signed last week by the US, Russia, the European Union and Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists occupying buildings in eastern Ukrainian towns were supposed to disarm and give up the state buildings they have seized.
Despite the agreement, separatists have rejected the terms of the accord and insist they would continue occupying government buildings until the interim government in Kyiv resigns.
On Tuesday, Biden also met with acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov (pictured above, Biden on the left) and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
hc/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP)