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Russia to face tougher sanctions if Ukraine polls undermined: Biden

Tougher sanctions must be imposed on Russia if it undermines crucial presidential elections in Ukraine on Sunday, US Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday in Bucharest.

BUCHAREST: Tougher sanctions must be imposed on Russia if it undermines crucial presidential elections in Ukraine on Sunday, US Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday in Bucharest.

"If Russia undermines these elections on Sunday, we must remain resolute in imposing greater costs," Biden told reporters after meeting with Romanian president Traian Basescu.

The vice president's comments come ahead of his trip to Cyprus later Wednesday, a country reluctant to impose stronger sanctions on Moscow.

The Mediterranean island's financial sector is heavily dependent on Russian capital.

"All countries should use their influence to promote a stable environment for Ukrainian citizens to cast their ballots freely."

Biden also called on countries in the West, particularly European states, to diversify their sources of energy and better connect their networks.

"We need to ensure that Russia can no longer continue to use its energy resources as a weapon against anyone in the region", he stressed during a press briefing with Romania's Prime minister Victor Ponta.

Romania's dependence on Russian gas is quite limited as the country is itself a gas and oil producer.

Biden said that Bucharest should make sure Moldova, a neighbouring country "overwhelmingly dependent on Russian gas", can also reduce its dependency.

Moldova, a country wedged between Romania and Ukraine, is set to sign an association agreement with the EU on June 27, a move that has angered Russia.

Diplomats fear it could become a new flashpoint.

Biden also praised the pro-Western government in Kiev for its "steps to engage Ukrainians, from all parts of that country, in the east and the south, on issues of constitutional reform".

And he reassured NATO member Romania of Washington's commitment to Article Five of the alliance's charter, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

He said he and Basescu had discussed "the ongoing and urgent efforts of the US and NATO to step up our military presence in Central and Eastern Europe in the air, on the sea and on the ground".

US defence guarantees have taken on heightened importance in eastern Europe following Russia's annexation of Crimea and its massing of troops on Ukraine's borders and what Washington sees as Moscow's support for pro-Kremlin militia groups during unrest in eastern Ukraine.

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