Vice President Joe Biden landed in Kyiv as a way to show the US is committed to helping Ukraine become less dependent on Russian energy and recover from an administration that drained the nation’s bank accounts.
Biden is the highest US official to visit Ukraine since the Euromaidan protests in November at Independence Square. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) visited Kyiv twice; once while the protests occurred and again after parliament ousted Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.
On Tuesday, Biden will meet with interim President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other local officials from around the country. The main objective is to discuss energy and economic aid to Ukraine.
Briefing reporters on board Biden’s plane, the official said the assistance was made up primarily of technical know-how to help boost energy efficiency as well as production in Ukrainian natural gas fields and extraction of “unconventional” gas resources.
Gazprom, Russia’s state owned gas company, has toyed with Ukraine since Yanukovych was deposed. They threatened to shut off the gas, raise prices and force Ukraine to pay back billions in debt. The European Union is already working with Ukraine to pay off the debt and provide gas supplies. Chevron announced they would honor a contract with Ukraine that would allow the company to drill for natural gas in shale rock by the Poland-Ukraine border.
Biden will also discuss the presidential elections scheduled for May 25 and the escalating violence in east Ukraine. On Saturday, the government in Kyiv announced an Easter truce and promised not to attack the pro-Russian forces over the holiday weekend. It was shattered after a deadly shootout in Sloviansk at 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning. However, the details are murky and no one can even agree on a body count. Then late Sunday night pro-Russians kidnapped Irma Krat, a female journalist from Kyiv, but they claim she is a member of a huge Maidan cell that is responsible for torturing pro-Russian militiamen.
The US hopes the meeting will strengthen ties between the West and Ukraine.
“(Biden) wanted to come to Kiev to send a very clear message of the United States’ support for Ukraine’s democracy, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the official said.
“He will call for urgent implementation of the agreement reached in Geneva last week while also making clear … that there will be mounting costs for Russia if they choose a destabilizing rather than constructive course in the days ahead.”