Kerry in Ukraine to Offer US Help

Kerry in Ukraine to Offer US Help

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Ukraine aiming to reassure the former Soviet republic that the United States stands by it in its territorial disputes with Russia.

Kerry arrived in Kiev on Thursday, a day after making a similar visit to Tbilisi, where he signed an agreement to boost U.S.-Georgia military cooperation, sending a not-so-subtle message to Russia ahead of this week's NATO summit. Georgia and Ukraine are both deeply worried about Russian activities on their territory and have sought closer ties with the West, including association with the European Union and the prospect of NATO membership.

Kerry is meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and others to discuss progress made on reforms called for by agreements reached in Minsk to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed separatists, which has already seen Moscow annex Crimea.

U.S. officials say Kiev has completed most of its obligations under the Minsk accords but complain that Russia and its proxies have not done their part. Implementation of Minsk was one of several topics discussed in a phone call on Wednesday between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.

In the call, Putin argued that Kiev needs to follow the 2015 Minsk peace deal by launching a dialogue with rebels, granting a special status to rebel regions and preparing local elections there. Obama, meanwhile, urged Putin "to take steps to end the significant uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine and stressed the urgency of moving forward with full implementation of the Minsk agreements," according to the White House.