US says to assist Ukraine 'for self-defense'

Biden sharply criticizes Putin for not honoring agreements on Ukraine; promises security assistance for Kiev

Biden sharply criticizes Putin for not honoring agreements on Ukraine; promises security assistance for Kiev

MUNICH - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has pledged security assistance for Ukraine, stressing that Ukrainian people has a right for self-defense.

“We will continue to provide Ukraine security assistance. Not to encourage war, but to encourage Ukraine to defend itself,” Biden said Saturday, at the Munich Security Conference in the German city of Munich.

His remarks followed growing pressure on the White House by the Republican-controlled Congress, which demands supplying arms to the Ukrainian government, amid the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. The Obama administration so far resisted providing lethal aid.

Biden told a high-level international audience at the security conference that the U.S. was still supporting a political solution in eastern Ukraine, but also believed the right of Ukrainians for self-defense.

“Let me be clear. We do not believe there is military solution in Ukraine. Let me be equally clear. We do not believe Russia has the right to do what they are doing. We believe we should attempt an honorable peace. But we also believe the Ukrainian people have a right to defend themselves,” Biden stressed.

Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel firmly ruled out providing arms to the Ukrainian government, in her address at the Munich Security Conference.

She spoke cautiously about the ongoing talks with Russia for a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but emphasized that diplomacy was the only way forward.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday about halting the violence in eastern Ukraine. However, the European leaders failed to broker a cease-fire deal following their long discussions on Friday night, but agreed to continue discussions on a German-French proposal.

- US demands actions from Moscow

Vice President Biden expressed U.S. support for the German-French diplomatic initiative for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, but underlined that Washington wants to see action, not promises from Moscow.

“It’s very much worth the attempt. But we must judge the existing agreements and any future agreement with Russia by the actions Russians take on the ground, not by the paper they signed,” he added.

Biden argued that the recent history has shown that Russia has not honored its promises. 

“Don’t tell us, show us President Putin… Too many times President Putin promised peace but delivered tanks, troops and weapons,” he said.

On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Biden, German Chancellor Merkel and Ukrainian President Poroshenko held a trilateral meeting on the situation in eastern Ukraine. Foreign ministers of the three countries also attended the meeting.

U.S. and European leaders accuse Russia of supporting the conflict with providing arms and ammunition to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, while Russia says the U.S. and EU have deliberately destabilized Ukraine to expand the west's military presence in Eastern Europe through NATO.

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists signed a cease-fire agreement in Minsk on Sept. 5, but both sides have not respected it.

More than 5,300 people have been killed and 12,200 others injured in eastern Ukraine since mid-April last year in the ongoing conflict, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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