NEW: Kerry warns Lavrov that sanctions could be increased
"As a result of what's going on in Ukraine," U.S. troops add drills in Europe
Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov calls for renewal of anti-terror measures
VP Joe Biden tells Ukraine PM the United States has his country's back
Ukraine’s acting President called on law enforcement agencies to renew anti-terror measures across the country, citing the discovery of two tortured bodies near the city of Slaviansk.
One of the victims was Vladimir Rybak, Oleksandr Turchynov said. Rybak, who recently went missing, was a member of the local parliament and belonged to the President’s political party.
“The terrorists who basically have taken the entire Donetsk region hostage have crossed the line with torturing and killing Ukrainian patriots,” Turchynov said.
Such crimes are committed with the support of Russian forces, he charged.
But a statement from a pro-Russian leader in Slaviansk rejects the President’s claim, and highlights that there is a war of perceptions, too.
Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the de facto mayor of Slaviansk, placed blame for the deaths on far-right Ukrainian nationalist extremists.
A pro-government party official told CNN that Rybak’s family identified his body at the morgue Tuesday. But the competing claims persist.
Biden to Russia: ‘Stop supporting men hiding behind masks’
As the crisis in Ukraine shows no signs of easing, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden promised support for Ukraine and stressed that the United States won’t recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“Ukraine is and must remain one country,” he said in Kiev on Tuesday at a news conference with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
“No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation,” Biden said. “We will never recognize Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea.”
Biden called on Russia to “stop supporting men hiding behind masks and unmarked uniforms sowing unrest in eastern Ukraine.” He warned of additional sanctions if such “provocative behavior” does not end.
Ukrainian and U.S. officials say they think Russian special forces are in the region and are behind efforts to seize government buildings and generally promote unrest – a claim Moscow denies.
As well as voicing solidarity with Kiev, Biden promised financial support, assistance in reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russian energy sources and nonlethal aid for security forces.
“You will not walk this road alone. We will walk it with you,” Biden told Yatsenyuk.
As he spoke, the White House announced a $50 million package of assistance to help Ukraine pursue political and economic reform and strengthen its partnership with the United States.
Biden said he also expects an International Monetary Fund package for Ukraine to be finalized imminently.
The backing is likely to sit well with Ukrainian leaders struggling to keep their country afloat amid dire financial problems, the ongoing showdown with Russia over its annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in Ukraine’s pro-Russian east.
Tensions remain high as pro-Russian militants show no sign of preparing to leave occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine despite an international deal agreed to in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.
“As a result of what’s going on in Ukraine,” the United States is deploying Army paratroopers nearby, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday. Four companies of paratroopers based in Italy will be sent to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over the next few months for military exercises, he said.
Medvedev: Russia can export more to China
But one top Russian official said his country shouldn’t be ruffled by talk of increased Western sanctions.
Addressing Russia’s lower house Tuesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia can shift its economy east, becoming less reliant on the international banking system and selling more oil and gas to China, state media reported.
Medvedev acknowledged that the sanctions, coupled with instability in the global economy and domestic economic issues, are having an impact.