From The Guardian
January 16, 2017
Comments while meeting with Ukraine’s president came after Trump indicated he could end Crimea-related sanctions in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal
Vice-president Joe Biden, on a last foreign trip before leaving office, met Ukraine’s president on Monday and called on the incoming Donald Trump administration to retain Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.
Biden’s comments at a briefing with President Petro Poroshenko came after Trump indicated in an interview with The Times and Bild that he could end sanctions imposed in the aftermath Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.
Trump’s attitude to Russia and praise for President Vladimir Putin has been a consistently controversial feature of his rise to the White House, which will be completed with his inauguration in Washington on Friday.
US intelligence agencies believe Russia sought to covertly influence the US election in Trump’s favour and against the Democratic nominee, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Trump has recently admitted that he believes Russia did orchestrate such hacks, but has nonetheless fuelled a bitter feud with intelligence officials over the issue.
“The international community must continue to stand as one against Russian coercion and aggression,” Biden told reporters, standing alongside Poroshenko, in remarks which did not include reference to Trump by name.
“The Crimea-related sanctions against Russia must remain in place until Russia returns full control to the people of Ukraine.”
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Other US sanctions are connected to Russia’s involvement in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine.
“Together with our EU and G7 partners,” Biden said, “we made it clear that sanctions should remain in place until Russia fully, emphasise fully, implements its commitments under the Minsk agreement.”
Poroshenko said Ukraine believed in good cooperation with the new US administration and urged sanctions to stay, without mentioning Trump’s remarks on a deal with Russia.
Andy Hunder, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, said Kiev would have to put much time and resources into dealing with the new US administration.
“On 20 January Ukraine will be waking up to a new reality,” he told Reuters. “There is a concern in Kiev about how the new relationship will develop. It will require building new bridges to the influencers, the gatekeepers and decision-makers.”
Kiev has taken steps to win the good favour of the those calling the shots in the Trump administration. Days after the election in November, Poroshenko’s office started planning an official visit to Washington in early 2017.
A bipartisan group of US senators, including the Republicans John McCain and Marco Rubio, said last week they wanted to slap a wide range of sanctions on Russia over its cyber activities and actions in Ukraine and Syria. A sanctions bill with similar provisions is being written in the House of Representatives.
“Our job is to make sure this attention on Ukraine does not wane,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Valeriy Chaly said on Wednesday.
As Biden left the room on Monday, a journalist asked if he thought the Trump administration would give Ukraine the same priority as he had. Biden gave a thumbs up.
“Hope springs eternal,” he said.
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