Vice President Biden called Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on Thursday to offer the United States’ “full support” for the formation of a new Ukrainian government.
“The vice president emphasized that this is an important opportunity not only to bring peace, stability, and unity to Ukraine, but also to restore the faith of all of the Ukrainian people in their country’s democratic institutions as they prepare for new elections in May,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden’s call to Yatsenyuk appears to be another clear signal that the U.S. no longer recognizes Yanukovych as the leader of the former Soviet republic. Biden frequently consulted with Yanukovych during the political demonstrations that engulfed the capital city of Kiev, speaking at least nine times by phone over the past three months.
Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Yanukovych had "abdicated his responsibilities" and "undermined his legitimacy" by fleeing Kiev.
"He was elected president," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "He has abdicated his responsibilities by — shortly after signing an agreement to bring an end to the violence and take the actions that so many in the world had called on him to take, which was to establish a unity government, to end the violence and move towards early elections — he packed up his belongings and disappeared."
Multiple Russian news agencies said Thursday that Yanukovych plans to hold a news conference on Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. While it is unclear what the president — who has not been seen publicly since Saturday — will say, he could attempt to reassert his place leading Ukraine.
Foreign policy experts worry that Yanukovych’s posturing or a threat of military intervention from Moscow could plunge the nation into a civil war. Russia has reportedly placed its troops on high alert amid the unrest.
On Thursday, Carney alled for "transparency" and said it was "not in anyone's interests to see further destabilization and certainly not in anyone's interest to see a return to violence of any kind."
"We expect Russia to be transparent about these activities they announced yesterday and to avoid provocative actions," Carney said. "That is an expectation we have, and we are conveying because it is in Russia's interest, and of course in the interest of the Ukrainian people, that there not be provocations, that Ukraine's territorial integrity be maintained, and its sovereignty be maintained."