KIEV, Ukraine — Vice President Biden abruptly canceled a wreath-laying ceremony Friday at a memorial marking Ukraine’s pro-Western revolution after angry crowd gathered to demand justice for those killed in the unrest.
Biden was in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on the first anniversary of the “Maidan” revolution that brought hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets for three months before President Viktor Yanukovich was driven from office on Feb. 21.
The change of plans — forced when Biden’s Secret Service escort decided that the scene was too risky — underscored the turbulence in Ukraine after a year of political upheavals and a separatist rebellion by factions allied with Moscow.
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Biden’s two-day visit, which began Thursday, was designed to demonstrate support for Ukraine’s Western-looking government.
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At the memorial event, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko was quickly surrounded by elderly women who said their sons were among the dead in the clashes that ousted the Russian-allied government.
“Shame, shame,” some men chanted at Poroshenko.
Uniformed soldiers and presidential security at the scene did not attempt to hold back the protesters at the edge of cobblestone Institutka Street, near the center of last winter’s revolution.
“My son died right here,” said Antonia Chaplinska. “He was 44 years old, and he had a wife and two kids.”
Roman Savchak, 29, said the families wanted to ask Poroshenko “what has been done a year after all these people died. … We want those responsible to be tried.”
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When Biden’s motorcade arrived, his Secret Service escort decided it was unsafe for him to leave his vehicle. Instead, Biden waited for Poroshenko to emerge, then greeted the Ukrainian president in the street before driving a block away to a meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Later in a speech, Biden said that the United States will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and warned Moscow that it risks greater isolation if it continues its “provocative action.”
The Obama administration is considering expanding its aid to Ukraine with what officials called “defensive” lethal military equipment as a tenuous cease-fire between government troops and heavily-armed separatists rapidly unravels.
The United Nations said Friday that nearly 1,000 people have been killed since the cease-fire was negotiated between Poroshenko and Russia in September.
“The list of victims keeps growing,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a statement from Geneva. “Civilians, including women, children, minorities and a range of vulnerable individuals and groups, continue to suffer the consequences of the political stalemate in Ukraine.”
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