Former Vice President Joe Biden renewed U.S. support for Ukraine in a phone call Sunday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s national security adviser, Victor Zelenskyy, according to a statement released by Biden’s office.
“Mr. Biden expressed the deep concern of the American people and the Ukrainian people about Russia’s continued support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and its provocative actions against its neighbors, and stressed the importance of Ukrainians sustaining a successful presidential election next month,” the statement said.
Biden reiterated the support of the U.S. for Poroshenko and the democratic process.
“Mr. Biden encouraged the Ukrainian government to make every effort to encourage any presidential candidates to ensure a free and fair election,” the statement said.
Poroshenko’s office said the conversation focused on “the threat of Russian aggression and aggressive actions,” including the Russian incursion into the Crimea and Kharkiv.
“Together with his colleagues in Europe and the U.S., the Ukrainian president said that Russia has imposed a ‘disappearing act’ on Ukraine’s economy and economic and demographic development,” the statement said.
Biden’s efforts to boost support for Ukraine comes amid ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Russia as well as the current Ukrainian presidential campaign.
Both the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministries issued statements on Saturday accusing the other of introducing heavy artillery to eastern Ukraine.
“With its actions, Russia deliberately aggravates and contributes to the crisis in the East Ukraine,” a Ukrainian foreign ministry statement said Saturday.
Over the weekend, state-run Russia news agency RIA Novosti reported that the Russian military fired up to seven warning flares during a weeklong observation mission in the Black Sea off the shore of eastern Ukraine. The observers were aiming to patrol Russian oil and gas pipelines in Ukraine’s border region.
Russian Maj. Gen. Alexander Fedorenko said the observers heard the flares in three locations and said they monitored other types of fire, such as incendiary flares and smoke, the report said. He added that the locations where the flares were fired were the Ukrainian border and the Sea of Azov near Mariupol.
Biden and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met on Friday in St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where Biden “expressed support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and the territorial integrity of NATO allies,” according to Biden’s statement.
“The general secretary and the vice president underlined that with regard to Ukraine and its continued application of the cease-fire and dialogue between the sides, additional engagements and effective work can produce a result” without a return to “military action,” Biden said.
Dmitry Medvedev, president of Russia and leader of the ruling United Russia party, told RT television Saturday that the U.S. and Ukraine have drifted apart since the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country after protests in 2014.
“It is not as if we are seeking a mutually beneficial Ukraine-Russia partnership,” Medvedev said, adding that what seems to be true now is that “the United States does not want Russia to have a role in any national dialogue in Ukraine.”
“Today it is not OK to work with Russia, even if the cooperation could be of benefit to the country,” Medvedev said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.