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Biden to unveil aid package in Ukraine

Vice President Biden will offer a new package of economic, energy and governance assistance to interim leaders in Ukraine as the U.S. looks to stabilize the fragile situation there, senior administration officials said Monday.

{mosads}Biden arrives in Kiev on Monday, just days after the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and European Union brokered a deal in Geneva intended to de-escalate tensions in the country’s eastern regions, where pro-Russian militants have seized government buildings and demanded to secede from Kiev.

But the deal struck in Geneva appears to be in peril after a shootout Sunday night at a checkpoint established by separatist militants.

An administration official said details were “still very murky” but described progress on the agreement struck in Geneva as “discouraging.”

“Thus far we have not seen those pro-Russian forces disarm, leave those buildings, and follow through on the agreement that was reached in Geneva,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told MSNBC.

An official traveling with Biden warned that it would not be “an open-ended process” before the U.S. moved forward with additional sanctions to punish Moscow for the actions of the pro-Russian separatists.

“This is going to be a situation where we take stock and determine in the relatively near term what our next step should be,” the official said.

While in Ukraine, Biden will look to bolster the central government with the announcement of an additional aid package designed to boost the Ukrainian economy.

“The area in which we can make the most difference immediately is in stabilizing their economy and helping their economy get back on a path toward growth,” Rhodes said.

Administration officials say the package will include energy assistance, including how to address the immediate “reverse flow issue” with natural gas. U.S. teams will trade to Kiev, as well as Slovakia and Hungary, to help devise ways to reverse the flow of natural gas and provide Ukraine with a short-term supply, so Kiev is not vulnerable to market manipulations from Moscow.

American engineers and scientists will also help Ukraine boost production in conventional gas fields, help develop a regulatory framework and technology to extract “unconventional” gas resources, and demonstrate energy efficient practices to help lessen Ukraine’s dependence on Russian energy.

U.S. teams will also go on the ground — including in ethnically Russian areas of southern and eastern Ukraine — to help administer the distribution of financial aid provided by the U.S. and International Monetary Fund. According to White House officials, the U.S. wants to guarantee the aid is allocated effectively.

While in Ukraine, Biden will look to bolster Kiev’s efforts to let citizens of the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine know that they too will benefit from international assistance. The U.S. hopes that doing so will help keep the separatist movements there from gaining momentum.

Tags Ben Rhodes Joe Biden Ukraine

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