Victoria Nuland: Russia Cannot Play Both Sides with Ukraine

Victoria Nuland: Russia Cannot Play Both Sides with Ukraine

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Russia has to stop saying it will help ease the tension in east Ukraine while helping the pro-Russian forces fight against the Ukrainian government.

Moscow insists there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine and that no one is helping the pro-Russians. However, Ukraine claimed photos show Russian forces inside the country, and Nuland said Russia cannot do both roles:

“You cannot dress yourself like a firefighter and behave like an arsonist,” Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.

“We are very concerned about the Russian hand behind the destabilizing things that we’re seeing in eastern Ukraine.”

Ukraine presented pictures that allegedly prove there are Russian soldiers in the east. CNN cannot confirm if the photos are authentic, but the pictures compare militants photographed Ukraine to the Russian soldiers that fought in Georgia when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded the ex-Soviet Union state. There is one man, Nuland said, who appeared in both a photo taken in Georgia and one in Ukraine.

Nuland also said Russia is not doing anything to alleviate the fights in east Ukraine:

“We have not seen the kind of major de-escalation that we’re looking for, nor have we seen serious Russian efforts to help the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] or to speak out against separatists since Geneva.”

At the same time, Moscow is accusing the Ukrainian government of not upholding its end of the bargain. On Friday, the US, European Union, Ukraine, and Russia agreed to do everything they can to stop violence in east Ukraine. At 3:00 AM Saturday morning, militiamen guarding a checkpoint outside of Sloviansk were attacked. The details are murky and no outlet can confirm the number of people killed.

Vice President Joe Biden is in Kyiv and will meet with interim President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Tuesday. He will discuss ways to support Ukraine through gas and energy but will also talk about the presidential elections on May 25. Nuland said the elections are very important:

“Presidential elections are scheduled for May 25th. There are some 20 candidates registered in those elections, representing all parts of the spectrum.”

The government, she said, is “doing very well” on those two fronts.

But as unrest rears its head in eastern Ukraine, she said, “they also have to ensure that the country is peaceful enough for those elections to go forward.”