Biden warns over energy as 'political weapon'

US Vice President Joe Biden vowed Friday it would work with Ukraine and other allies to prevent countries like Russia from using energy as a "political weapon."

In a telephone call with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden said aid from the United States and other countries would help Ukraine "meet its most pressing needs," the White House said in a statement.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed a bill providing Kiev with $1 billion in loan guarantees, amid the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.

The International Monetary Fund last month announced a $14-$18 billion bailout for Ukraine on Thursday that imposes tough economic conditions that will alter the lives Ukrainians who have grown accustomed to the comforts of Soviet-era subsidies and welfare benefits.

Biden hailed the so-called standby arrangement, saying it would "stabilize and grow the Ukrainian economy," according to the White House.

"He expressed support for finalizing the arrangement as soon as possible."

Western-backed Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, are scrambling to find new sources of energy after Russia hiked its gas price by 80 percent in response to the overthrow of Kiev's pro-Kremlin regime.

Biden "emphasized the importance of improving Ukraine's energy security and pledged to work closely with Ukraine and other countries across Europe to ensure that no country can use energy as a political weapon," the White House said.

He also called for "free and fair" presidential elections on May 25 and urged Ukraine to implement constitutional reforms "in an inclusive process and as defined by the Ukrainian people."

Despite a sharply divided Congress, Obama is benefiting from bipartisan hostility toward President Vladimir Putin in Washington and a willingness to unveil further sanctions should the Russian leader send forces now massed on the border deeper into Ukraine.

Obama spoke to Putin a week ago and Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in London this week, but US efforts have yielded no de-escalation of the crisis.