Ukraine crisis and Joe Biden's visit
Oleksandr Turchynov (R), speaker of the parliament and interim Ukrainian president, welcomes US Vice President Joe Biden in KievReuters

US Vice President Joe Biden has vowed to help Ukraine crawl out of the ongoing crisis in the face of "humiliating threats" during his high-profile visit to Kiev.

Urging the interim authorities in Kiev to fight the "cancer of corruption" in the system, Biden, who is wrapping up his two-day trip, said the upcoming presidential elections in May would be the most important in the country's history.

"The opportunity to generate a united Ukraine and getting it right is within your grasp. And we want to be your partner and friend in the project. We're ready to assist," the American vice president told the Ukrainian political leaders.

Biden was holding talks with nine prominent Ukrainian leaders which include three presidential contenders in the elections which are scheduled to take place on 25 May. He also spoke to the acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and caretaker Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in private and is expected to meet some social activists shortly.

This is the most high-level visit by a US authority to Ukraine since the unrest broke out. Biden's brief visit is widely seen as sending a strong signal to Russia of the United States' support for the upcoming elections.

Biden continued: "You have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now. The demands on you are very extreme. You face very daunting problems and, some might say, humiliating threats."

His visit has come at a time when Russia and Washington are increasing blaming each other for the Ukraine crisis. Despite the Geneva accord signed by the rival parties, the situation in the region remains volatile.

The US leader went on: "I want you to know I do not underestimate the incredible pressure you all are under. I do not underestimate the challenges you all face. And I do not underestimate the frustration you all must feel when someone like me comes along to say what a great opportunity this is for you all."