With concern growing about Ukraine’s government and its commitment to cleaning up corruption and cronyism, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has spoken to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for the second time in as many days.
The February 12 phone call from Biden -- the White House’s point man on Ukraine -- came just days after the resignation of reformist Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, who angrily accused top officials in the Poroshenko administration of hindering badly needed reforms.
Western ambassadors have been vocal in urging Poroshenko to do more, and the International Monetary Fund has signaled that $1.75 billion in bailout funds could be in doubt.
The White House said Biden told the Ukrainian leader that reforms need to be passed quickly to ensure the IMF funds.
"The two leaders agreed on the importance of unity among Ukrainian political forces to quickly pass reforms in line with the commitments in its IMF program, including measures focused on rooting out corruption," it said in a statement.
Poroshenko had been seen as committed to cleaning up Ukraine’s notorious corrupt and untransparent government, and Abromavicius had been one of several foreign-born officials brought in as part of that effort.
But the push to eliminate problems like bribery, kickbacks, and preferential hiring for wealthy insiders has proceeded at a slow pace, resulting in growing frustration both inside Ukraine and among Western officials and lenders.
The resignation of Abromavicius sparked fears that the government of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk might collapse. That would undermine efforts to cement the Minsk accords that brought a shaky cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed rebels and government troops.