Notes from Ukraine, Day Two: Behind the Briefings and Bilats

Vice President Joe Biden greets Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk outside the Cabinet of Ministers Club, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Hi, folks — checking in to share a few thoughts from my day with you. It was a productive one.

I met with President Poroshenko at the House of Chimeras, I met with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk at the Cabinet of Ministers, and I met with a group of activists and reformers from the Rada, from civil society, and government.

Across the board, these are some of the most important Ukrainians tasked with the vital work of fixing this country. And I let them know that the United States continues to stand with them in this fight.

That’s why, during a joint statement with President Poroshenko, I announced nearly $190 million in new American assistance to help Ukraine move forward with real reform — to help them fix their judicial system. To help lock in the police reforms that are working. To build a real democracy.

Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko look at an art exhibit on the way to their joint press statements in the Bankova building in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

But just as the United States will keep doing more, I reiterated in these meetings that Ukraine, too, has got to do more to combat corruption and advance reform.

Now, when foreign officials go on trips like this one, you typically see the pool spray photos, the handshake photos. There’s a lot that happens in between that folks might not necessarily see.

Today, for instance, I had the pleasure of meeting with some of the embassy staff here in Ukraine — something I try to do on every foreign trip I take. These are some of the hardest-working people I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the course of my career.

The group was full of vibrant young people of all ages, as you can see. I loved talking with them.

Vice President Joe Biden talks to children of U.S. Embassy personnel during an Embassy meet and greet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Finally, along with U.S. Ambassador Pyatt, I was also able to visit a place that has become sacred to this city: An unofficial memorial to “the Heavenly Hundred” — those killed in the Maidan protests of early 2014.

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tour the Heavenly Hundred Memorial, an unofficial memorial to those killed during the Maidan protests in February 2014, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

There, more than a hundred photos are lined before a large cross and chapel built in the honor of those who died. They came from all over, of all ages and backgrounds, all of them simply demanding a better future for their kids and their country.

It’s a deeply moving and solemn place.

And the people of this government have a sacred obligation to make sure these efforts for independence don’t fail again.

Thanks, folks.