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US to Help Ukraine Gain Energy Independence from Russia – Biden

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Washington will help crisis-hit Ukraine reduce its dependence on gas supplies from neighboring resource-rich Russia, US Vice President Joe Biden told reporters after talks with Ukrainian officials in Kiev on Tuesday.

MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) – Washington will help crisis-hit Ukraine reduce its dependence on gas supplies from neighboring resource-rich Russia, US Vice President Joe Biden told reporters after talks with Ukrainian officials in Kiev on Tuesday.

“An American team is currently in the region working with Ukraine and its neighbors to increase Ukraine’s short-term energy supply,” Biden said. “More teams are coming to support long-term improvements so that no nation, to be precise, Russia, can no longer use energy as a political weapon against Ukraine and Europe,” he said.

“With the right investments and the right choices, Ukraine can reduce its energy dependence and increase its energy security. And we will stand with you helping every way we can for you to accomplish that goal,” Biden said.

Washington will provide Ukraine with a new $50 million aid package to help with economic and political reforms, the White House told Reuters Tuesday. The United States has also offered an additional $8 million in non-lethal military assistance, including radios and vehicles, according to a statement.

“Finally even as we pursue diplomacy, we are also providing non-lethal support to Ukrainian security services to deal with challenges of terrorism – we are providing communications here, bomb disposal technology, transportation and engineering equipment for Ukraine to protect against infiltrators and deal with explosive threats,” Biden said.

US security support now totals nearly $20 million, the US vice president said.

Last week, the US signed a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine in support of its economic recovery. Washington has been the driving force behind the IMF working to provide a multi-billion package to Ukraine, which is expected to be finalized imminently.

Biden arrived on a two-day visit Monday to meet with Ukrainian authorities as the country struggles to find a way out of a deep economic and political crisis. Ukraine went through a regime change on February 22, which saw the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the rise of Western-backed ultra-nationalistic activists to power in Kiev.

Moscow and several regions in Ukraine have not acknowledged the legitimacy of the new authorities and have condemned its nationalistic policies, threatening the Russian-speaking population of the country.

Over the past five years, Russia has supplied Ukraine with nearly 150 billion cubic meters of gas. While importing the Russian gas, Ukraine has systematically delayed payments. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated earlier this month that Ukraine owes Russia $17 billion in gas discounts and another $18.4 billion has been incurred as a minimal take-or-pay fine.

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