Biden in Ukraine to show support as tensions rise

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Biden in Ukraine to show support as tensions rise
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left is greeted by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia at Borispol airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, Monday April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Ukraine's acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk on Tuesday, during a visit to Kiev. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden , left, is greeted upon arrival at Borispol airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, Monday April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Ukraine's acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk on Tuesday, during a visit to Kiev. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves as he arrives at Borispol airport outside Kiev, Ukraine on Monday April 21, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
People listen to masked pro-Russians as they gather at barricades in front of barricades at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Masked pro-Russian gunmen guard an entrance to the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service with a Russian National flag is in background in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Masked pro-Russian gunmen guard an entrance of the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service with a Russian National flag is in background in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S.Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Armed Pro-Russian men on the street in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at a checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrives at Borispol airport outside Kiev, Ukraine on Monday April 21, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walks down the steps as he arrives at Borispol airport outside Kiev, Ukraine on Monday April 21, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
A Ukrainian woman holds a bouquet during a pro Ukrainian rally in Khartsyrsk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Pro Ukrainian protesters are seen holding Ukrainian flags during a pro Ukrainian rally in Khartsyrsk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A Ukrainian woman waves a Russian flag while chanting pro Russian slogans during a pro Russia rally in Khartsyrsk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. A group of foreign reporters has been captured by pro-Russian insurgents in an east Ukrainian city, but were later released. One Belarusian and two Italian journalists were detained by gunmen in the city of Slovyansk, which has been occupied by pro-Russian forces for more than a week. Slovyansk is part of many towns in the Russian-speaking region where insurgents are demanding greater ties with Russia. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Mark Etherington, an OSCE special mission in Ukraine official, background right, stands as a car with armed pro-Russian men passes by him in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Mark Etherington, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, special mission in Ukraine official leaves after giving his statement for media, with the occupied regional administration building seen in the background in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Mark Etherington, an OSCE special mission in Ukraine official delivers his statement for press with the occupied regional administration building in the background in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A pro-Russian protester guards barricades with a banner reading "Donetsk Republic" in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Armed Pro-Russian men secure the area on the street in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at a checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Masked pro-Russian man blindfolds pro-Ukrainian activist and journalist Irma Krat after she was shown to journalists in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014, after Krat was taken captive by pro-Russian insurgents. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
An armed Pro-Russian man on the street in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at a checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Russia supporters guard barricades with a sign reading "Stop"! atop of barricades at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Armed Pro-Russian men on the street in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at a checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
People listen to a pro-Russian speaker as they gather at barricades with a Russian national Donetsk republic flags is the background at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S.Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
People react while listening to a pro-Russian speaker as they gather at barricades at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S.Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
People applaud a pro-Russian speaker as they gather at barricades at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
People applaud a pro-Russian speaker as they gather at barricades with a Russian national flag is the background at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A masked pro-Russia guards barricades as the Russian national flag flies at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A pro-Russian protester guards barricades in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A pro-Russian protester guards barricades with a banner reading "Donetsk Republic" in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Russian protesters guard barricades in Slovyansk , eastern Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine is appealing to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops after a shootout at checkpoint near the city manned by pro-Russia insurgents. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A Ukrainian woman holds a pass with the words 'Donetsk Republic', during a pro Russia rally in Khartsyrsk, 20 Km from Donestsk in Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A masked pro-Russia guards barricades as the Russian national flag flies at the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, April 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is heading to Ukraine to meet with leaders of the turbulent country. Biden's visit comes a day after violence erupted in eastern Ukraine, despite an agreement last week aimed at easing tensions.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- 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.

The official who briefed reporters traveling with Biden said details surrounding the deadly clash are still murky and blamed the difficulty of monitors to get in the area for observation. The U.S. wants the Russian government to use its influence to get pro-Russian separatists to lay down their arms.

Russia's Foreign Ministry quickly blamed militant Ukrainian nationalists in Sunday's attack. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Kiev of "a crude violation of the agreements reached in Geneva" to ease tensions.

The Ukrainian Security Service, however, said the attack was staged by provocateurs from outside the country.

Biden plans to warn Russia of mounting costs if it doesn't follow through on its commitments. The U.S. and its allies have prepared new sanctions on wealthy Russians in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle, as well on the entities they run, and administration officials have said they will determine in the coming days whether Russia is making progress or should face the further penalties.

Pro-Russian armed groups that have seized police stations and other government buildings in eastern Ukraine said they wouldn't vacate unless the country's acting government resigned. The new government insists it is legitimate, has no plans to resign and is working on constitutional reforms that will give eastern regions a greater voice in self-governance.

The Obama administration official told reporters that the assistance Biden plans to announce includes technical expertise to take steps including increasing production in their own fields and boost energy efficiency to reduce reliance on oil imports from Russia. The economic help includes advice to make sure international funding is allocated effectively and that all parts of the country are benefiting.

Biden took on the trip because of his long ties at the forefront of the Obama administration's diplomatic maneuvers with Kiev. The vice president frequently negotiated with Yanukovych before he fled to Russia and last visited Ukraine shortly after becoming vice president in 2009.

During that last trip, Biden delivered a speech in Kiev aimed at reassuring Ukrainians that the Obama administration remained committed to their country while trying to reset a better relationship with Russia. But instead of improving ties, relations with Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow's action in Ukraine, including last month's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

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