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Biden In Kyiv As Ukraine, Russia Trade Accusations

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be in Kyiv to meet with government leaders on the crisis in the country amid a row between Ukraine and Russia over a deadly shooting incident.

During Biden's two-day visit he will meet with acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and parliament members in talks scheduled for Kyiv on April 22.

The White House said Biden will discuss efforts by the international community to stabilize the country's economy, energy issues, and the situation regarding separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia accused each other of responsibility for a shooting incident outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk on April 20 in which at least three people were killed at a checkpoint set up by pro-Russian separatists.

The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear.

Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed "outrage" over the incident, saying it proved that Ukrainian authorities do not wish to disarm "nationalists and extremists."

Pro-Russian authorities in the region presented documents and other materials that they alleged showed the Ukrainian far-right nationalist group Right Sector was responsible.

Right Sector denied any involvement and instead accused Russian special services for the incident.

The Ukrainian Security Service said no Ukrainian organization was involved in the attack.

It denounced the incident as a “provocation” staged by outsiders.

Local pro-Russian separatist leader Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-declared mayor of Slovyansk, announced a curfew and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian peacekeepers to the region.

Including Slovyansk, pro-Russian separatists are reported to remain in control of public facilities in around 10 areas of mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Monitors from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) were expected in eastern Ukraine on April 20 to oversee implementation of a new international plan aimed at disbanding illegal armed groups and ending the occupation of public buildings.

The plan was signed in Geneva on April 17 by the European Union, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.

The Ukrainian government wants to see pro-Russian groups broken up, while pro-Russian activists say Ukrainian protester groups also need to halt their occupations of public property.

Two U.S. Senators have called for stricter economic sanctions against Russia unless it de-escalates the situation in eastern Ukraine.

Bob Corker (Tennessee-Republican), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on U.S. television on April 20 that tougher sanctions against the Kremlin should include measures against its energy companies, like Gazprom, and its banking sector.

He said the way the West is leaving Ukraine to face Russia alone is "unconscionable."

Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut-Democrat), who is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said it is time to "rapidly ratchet (eds: increase) up our sanctions, whether its on Russian petrochemical companies or Russian banks."

Meanwhile, in an interview with U.S. television network NBC, broadcast on April 20, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk renewed accusations that Russia is undermining global stability by interfering in Ukraine.

Yatesenyuk accused Putin of trying to restore the Soviet Union by moving into former Soviet territories.

This was rejected as “false” by the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.

In his Easter sermon at the Vatican, Roman Catholic Pope Francis called for an end to violence in Ukraine.

The pope asked God to "enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine."
With information from a White House statement and reporting by Reuters