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article imageBiden urges unity in face of Russian 'aggression'

By Olga SHYLENKO (AFP)     Jan 16, 2017 in Politics

Outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday urged the international community to remain united in the face of Russian "aggression", insisting sanctions on Moscow should stay over its actions in Ukraine.

Biden's comments during a visit to Kiev to voice support for Ukraine's pro-Western leaders came as US President-elect Donald Trump signals closer ties with the Kremlin.

"Russia's continued attempts to undermine your success, your security, your sovereignty and your territorial integrity are manifold," Biden said at a joint press briefing with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

"Together with our EU and G7 partners we made it clear that sanctions should remain in place until Russia fully... implements its commitments under the Minsk agreement," he said referring to a February 2015 peace deal aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"The international community must continue to stay as one against Russian aggression and coercion."

Biden's half-day visit was aimed at underscoring his personal involvement in providing support for the former Soviet country amid concerns that ties could chill under Trump.

Biden has spearheaded efforts by Barack Obama's outgoing adminstration to push Ukraine towards reforms as the country struggles with Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist fighters in the east.

- 'Cancer of corruption' -

Ukraine and its Western allies including the United States accuse Russia of fuelling the war by deploying troops and smuggling arms to separatists, claims Moscow has repeatedly denied.

But Trump's softened stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin raises questions over the continuation of harsh economic sanctions that Washington and the European Union slapped on the Russian strongman's inner circle.

"I hope the next administration will also want to be a supporter and a partner in your continued progress but as you know no one else can do the hard work but the Ukrainian people," Biden said.

"I wanted to come here one more time in my last trip as vice president to honour how much progress the people of Ukraine have achieved," he said, adding: "Americans and Ukrainians are united by deep bonds."

Biden's visit came days after Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels accused each other of disrupting the latest in a series of fragile truce agreements declared in late December.

That deal brought fresh hope of an end to almost three years of a conflict that has killed nearly 10,000 people.

Biden praised steps by Ukraine's pro-Western authorities to tackle rampant corruption, but urged them to do more.

"Thanks to the vital steps you have taken, your economy is now growing again. But there remains much work to be done," he said.

"You are fighting both against the cancer of corruption... and the unrelenting aggression of the Kremlin."

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