Vice President Joe Biden challenged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to cease violence against protesters, begin a dialogue with the opposition, and restore his country’s ties to the European Union Thursday evening. He also said America can play a role in Ukraine’s future.
“In Ukraine, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to demand a modern, democratic, prosperous future, which they see in Europe. And they look to us for help,” Biden said, becoming the most senior Obama adminstration to condemn the government’s weeks long crackdown on street protesters. “Nothing would have greater impact for securing our interests and the world’s interests in Europe than to see a democratic, prosperous, and independent Ukraine in the region. And in our view, it would be the best thing that could ever happen to Russia in the long term.”
Biden was the featured honoree at Thursday evening at the annual gala of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a non-governmental organization that advocates on behalf of diplomacy and development as tools of national power. He said he knew Yanukovych well and had “several hours worth” of conversations with him in recent months.
“My conversation with Yanukovych just in the past few weeks, I’ve made it clear that he has a choice. He can choose a path that leads to division and isolation or can take immediate tangible steps to diffuse his country’s crisis and start a genuine dialogue with the opposition to agree to a path that returns Ukraine to economic and political health,” Biden said. “We hope he leads his country back to its European path, but he needs help. Because it’s in the most fundamental interest of the United States that Ukraine succeed, the door is open. And what the Ukrainian people have to know is that the America stands with them on the side of universal rights, democratic principles, and economic assistance and intervention.”
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