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Russia must 'stop talking and start acting': US vice president

KIEV, Ukraine -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that “it's time to stop talking and start acting” to reduce tension in Ukraine, offering a show of support for the besieged nation as an international agreement aimed at stemming its ongoing crisis appeared in doubt.

Standing alongside acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and “address their grievances politically.”

Biden said Russia needs to act “without delay,” adding, “We will not allow this to become an open-ended process.”

Yatsenyuk was harsher in his characterization of Russia. “No country should be able to behave like an armed bandit,” he said. “Russia should stick to its international commitments and obligations. They should not behave as gangsters in the modern century.”

Money for Ukraine

Biden also announced the United States will provide an additional US$50 million to help Ukraine's beleaguered government with political and economic reforms.

The money includes US$11 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential election, including voter education, administration and oversight. It also will help fund expert teams from U.S. government agencies to help Ukraine to reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia. Other technical advisers will help fight corruption.

The White House also announced US$8 million in non-lethal military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles.

In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since the crisis erupted, Biden met privately with Yatsenyuk and acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov. He also met with democracy activists and spoke to TV cameras to tell the people of eastern Ukraine he had urged the nation's leaders to keep reaching out to them.

“I know the men and women who hide behind masks and unmarked uniforms, they do not speak for you,” he said.

Biden paid tribute to the protest movement by visiting St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, perched on a hill a few blocks from Kiev's Independence Square that was the site of massive demonstrations against then-President Viktor Yanukovych. The monks provided refuge to protesters fleeing riot police and served as a field hospital to treat demonstrators who were shot in the square. Some died from their wounds beneath the monastery's high, blue bell tower.

“These heroes remind us of the true cost of a better future and the nobility of those who reach for it,” Biden said.

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves as he walks in front of Mykhaylo Gold Domes wall frescos in Kiev on Tuesday, April 22. (AFP)

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