Vice President Joe Biden told Russia it will face greater costs if Moscow does not recognize or attempts to disrupt Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25. Russia stated many times the country will not view the new government as legitimate, and President Vladimir Putin admitted it will be hard to work with the new president.
Biden is in Bucharest to reassure Romania and Cyprus of US support if any of the countries are threatened by Russia. “[We] have agreed that if Russia undermines these elections on Sunday we must remain resolute in imposing greater costs on Russia and we must be equally resolute to invest in the NATO alliance,” he told reporters after meeting Romanian President Traian Basescu.
Romania is an ex-Soviet state and joined NATO in 2004. Russia set off NATO alarms after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted a threat to the country after officials did not allow his plane to fly over Romania. He said next time he would fly in a UT-160, which is a Russian jet bomber. Cyprus is not in NATO, but it is a member of the European Union and one of the few who have not supported tougher sanctions against Russia. Rich Russians often visit Cyprus, enjoying the island life and Western luxuries, but Biden will pressure the island to push for more sanctions.
Despite these threats, Putin thinks it will not be easy to work with the new government in Kyiv and offered his opinion on how Ukraine should approach the situation. From Reuters:
“It will be very hard for us to build relations with people who come to power against the backdrop of a continuing punitive operation in southern and southeastern Ukraine,” Putin said, referring to the anti-separatist operation by government forces.
“In my view it would be far cleaner, from a legal point of view… to first hold a referendum on all the basic issues, a constitutional referendum… and then elect a president and parliament on the basis of this constitution,” Putin said.
“…What is important is not the election itself but establishing relations with all regions of Ukraine, so that people feel like citizens no matter where they live.”
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk already promised east Ukraine more local powers. He also said the constitution will allow Russian-dominant places in the east to use Russian language as the official language. Now ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych passed a law that allowed these towns to use Russian officially, but Parliament immediately revoked the law when he was deposed. This caused a backlash in the east where the majority of residents are ethnic Russians or speak Russian as their primary language.
The election is set for Sunday, May 25. Ukraine’s “Chocolate King” Petro Poroshenko is ahead in the polls at 40%.