Image: Olexander Turchynov, speaker of the parliament and interim Ukrainian president, welcomes US Vice President Joe Biden in Kiev
Pool / Reuters

TODAY   |  April 22, 2014

Biden to Ukraine leaders: US stands with you

Vice President Joe Biden participates in key meetings on Tuesday morning with political leaders on the crisis in Ukraine. NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reports.

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>>> now to the crisis in ukraine , and key meetings this morning between vice president joe biden and political leaders there. nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel is here with more for us. richard, good morning.

>> good morning. strong words from joe biden . he says that russia must withdraw all of its troops from ukraine 's border, and says the time has come for russia to act.

>> good morning.

>> reporter: in ukraine , vice president joe biden said washington would stand with the government in kiev despite what washington says are russia 's attempts to undermine it. ukraine , which toppled its pro- russian president earlier this year, setting off the crisis with moscow , is scheduled to hold elections in may. vice president biden said the vote should go ahead.

>> the people of ukraine should have the right to choose their own future.

>> reporter: but ukraine is set to hold that vote, even as its territory is being lost to men in masks. moscow and washington have both agreed that militias in ukraine should be disarmed, but the militias continued to occupy buildings in eastern ukraine . the ukrainian government says the militias aren't standing down because they are russian troops and gave european monitors these photographs to prove it. kiev claims the photos show that some of the militiamen in the east are the very same men moscow used to take over crimea and other territory. take a look at the big man with the beard photographed in eastern ukraine last week. kiev says six years ago, he was with russian special forces in a war with georgia. moscow denies it controls the militias. ukraine says they are part of a first wave, a russian takeover in disguise.