Biden casts doubt on Putin’s Ukraine peace commitment

Raf Casert Associated Press

Brussels — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is questioning the willingness of Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek peace in Ukraine as the leaders of Germany and France are seeking such a deal in Moscow.

Putin “continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past,” Biden said Friday at the European Union headquarters in Brussels.

Biden insisted the 28-nation EU and the United States need to stand together and support the government of Ukraine with financial and political aid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were heading to Moscow on Friday to press for peace in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels were fighting government troops.

The United States has been reconsidering whether to provide Ukraine defensive weapons and other lethal aid since the recent spike in violence between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

Without directly addressing the issue, Biden said that “Ukraine is fighting for its very survival right now.”

Both he and EU President Donald Tusk stressed that any peace deal would have to respect the full territorial integrity of Ukraine, which lost its southern peninsula Crimea to Russian annexation last year.

“Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe. That is exactly what they are doing,” Biden said. Tusk added that the West “cannot compromise on Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Both the United States and the EU have been pledging several billions in financial assistance through loans and special aid for Kiev, based on a commitment to stay the course of reform.

And despite the intensified fighting, Biden continued to see hopeful signs.

“Even in the face of this military onslaught they are attempting to push forward with reforms,” Biden said.