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article imageBiden to travel to Poland, Lithuania next week

By AFP     Mar 14, 2014 in World

Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Poland and Lithuania next week to discuss the crisis in Ukraine with allies in the region, the White House said Friday.

During his travels to Warsaw and Vilnius from Monday to Wednesday, Biden will hold talks with Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk, as well as the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The White House said the meetings were intended to "discuss events in Ukraine and other regional issues."

"During his meetings, the vice president will consult on steps to support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and affirm our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and our enduring support for all of our allies and partners in Europe," it added.

The announcement came after US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in for whirlwind talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London, with few illusions that a Moscow-backed referendum for Crimea to split from Ukraine could be averted or delayed.

Kerry also warned against the Russian parliament or Duma ratifying Sunday's vote which he said would amount to a "backdoor ratification" -- a move that would trigger sanctions and escalate the biggest East-West showdown since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

The top US diplomat insisted again that Washington did not want to impose sanctions on Moscow, but said even just the threat was causing Moscow stocks to tumble.

Russia still refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Western-leaning team that has taken power in Kiev -- a move that threatens to shatter Putin's dream of rebuilding an empire dominated by Moscow.

The former Soviet republic of some 46 million people remained a tinderbox as more than 8,000 Russian troops staged drills near Ukraine's eastern border while NATO and US reconnaissance aircraft and fighters patrolled the skies of its European Union neighbors to the west.

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