U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says Russian President Vladimir Putin faces a choice to either "get out" of Ukraine or face "continued international isolation" and domestic economic problems.
Biden, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 7, said that unless Russia changed course in its involvement in Ukraine, the international community would continue to "impose costs" on Moscow for its "violation of international norms."
He said that Russia was disregarding Ukraine's sovereignty with its involvement in eastern Ukraine, where a conflict between rebels and the government has killed more than 5,350 people since April, and charged that pro-Russian separatist leaders and the core of the "trained fighters" in eastern Ukraine "directly answer to Mr. Putin."
Biden told an audience that included world leaders and senior officials that no country had spheres of influence and that every independent country had the "sovereign right to choose its own alliances" -- a warning that Russia cannot keep Ukraine out of the European Union or NATO against its will.
He also left open the possibility of Washington providing defensive military aid to Ukraine.
"We will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," he said. "Let me be clear: we do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine."
Russian soldiers Who 'Lost Their Way'
Speaking after Biden in Munich, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterated charges that Russia is deeply involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine and urged European countries to support Kyiv.
Poroshenko said Ukraine's "once friendly neighbor" Russia had broken international law "and taken a part of our territory," a reference to Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
He said Russia had provided military equipment and hardware to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russian troops were in the rebel-held regions.
Poroshenko held up several red passports and military IDs that he claimed were taken from Russian soldiers and officers fighting in Ukraine and said they were proof of Moscow's presence in his country.
"This is the best evidence for the aggression and for the presence of Russian troops," he said. "[Although Russian officials] hold a lot of press conferences demonstrating [how] the Russian soldiers and officers who 'lost his way,' 100 kilometers away from the border with full tanks of ammunition, killing my soldiers and killing Ukrainian civilians," Poroshenko said sarcastically.
He said the Ukraine crisis will "remain unsolved" unless Kyiv receives political, economic, and military support from Europe and other international allies.
Poroshenko addressed concerns expressed by some EU countries in recent days about supplying Ukraine with arms.
"I know that many experts have argued that enhancing our military will provoke further aggression," he said. "On the contrary, we have seen that the lack of defense capabilities triggers offensive operations against Ukraine and [increases] the escalation [of the fighting]."
Poroshenko added that "the stronger our defense, the more convincing is our diplomatic voice."
Declaring himself a "president of peace, not war," he said the principles in the Minsk agreement were the only way to end the fighting in Ukraine.
He held out hope for a peace initiative made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 6, and said everyone will see in the coming days "who is responsible for not signing a cease-fire agreement."
'It's Called War'
Merkel said in Munich on February 7 that prospects for peace in Ukraine remain clouded after talks with Putin, and warned that tension between Moscow and the West could spiral out of control if diplomacy fails.
"Nobody is interested in a renewed split of Europe. And much less in a confrontation with the risk of an uncontrollable escalation," Merkel said. "We want to establish security in Europe with Russia, not against Russia."
"After the talks yesterday in Moscow that the French president and I had, it is uncertain if it will succeed," Merkel said.
She said "Russia must contribute its share" and called for "substantial steps forward which would help implement" a deal on a cease-fire and steps toward a peace agreement signed in September in Minsk.
Hollande, speaking in France, said the Franco-German initiative was "one of the last chances" for peace.
"If we don't manage to find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it's called war," Hollande said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in the spotlight as Putin's highest representative in Munich, said there was a good chance that the fresh diplomatic efforts could produce agreement on a peace plan, but accused the West of encouraging Kyiv to seek to subdue the separatists by force.
"We believe there is every possibility that we will reach a result and agree on recommendations that will allow the sides to really untie this knot of a conflict," Lavrov said.
Putin, for his part, said on February 7 in Moscow that the West was trying to impose a Cold War-style containment on Russia and that Moscow will oppose U.S. efforts to be the world's only superpower.
With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS