September 19, 2021

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Biden invites Ukrainian President to White House in July

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Sullivan said Biden discussed the visit during a call with Zelensky earlier Monday afternoon as part of a planned discussion ahead of Biden’s upcoming trip to Europe.

Zelensky confirmed the invitation, tweeting, “Thank you @POTUS @JoeBiden for inviting me to visit the @WhiteHouse in July during our phone conversation. I look forward to this meeting to discuss ways to expand strategic cooperation between Ukraine and #USA.”

Monday’s call came days after Zelensky told Axios he was imploring Biden to meet with him in-person before the President meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week. The White House appears to have turned down Zelensky’s request for an in-person meeting ahead of the summit.

Asked about whether Biden would take Zelensky up on meeting before the Putin summit, Sullivan said during the press briefing that Biden told the Ukrainian leader during Monday’s call “that he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House here in Washington this summer after he returns from Europe.”

“I have come into this briefing room from the Oval Office where President Biden was on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine. This is a call they had been planning to make in advance of President Biden going to Europe (and) meeting with President Putin,” Sullivan said. “They had the opportunity to talk at some length about all of the issues in the US-Ukraine relationship. And President Biden was able to tell President Zelensky that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations as we go forward.”

Biden reaffirmed his support for Ukraine’s NATO membership aspirations as well as support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to a statement released Monday by Zelensky’s office.

“Joe Biden reaffirmed the unwavering US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and noted Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s leadership in implementing fundamental reforms in the country,” the statement read.

“The President of the United States also highlighted the full support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and the importance of providing the Ukrainian state with a NATO Membership Action Plan. He assured that Ukraine’s position will be taken into account when discussing strategic issues in NATO, as well as during scheduled top-level events.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Monday evening that the pair “discussed our strategic partnership in support of President Zelenskyy’s plan to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda, based on our shared democratic values and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, that delivers justice, security, and prosperity to the people of Ukraine.”

Biden, Psaki added, “affirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing Russian aggression in Donbas and Crimea.”

Zelensky also thanked the US for providing the country with 900,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses, a number Psaki confirmed in her statement.

“It will save the lives of many Ukrainians. The United States has reaffirmed its commitment to a strategic partnership with Ukraine,” Zelensky said in his statement.

In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Biden indicated that Ukraine would be top of mind during his discussions with European allies and with Putin in Geneva.

“So, when I meet with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, it will be after high-level discussions with friends, partners and allies who see the world through the same lens as the United States, and with whom we have renewed our connections and shared purpose,” Biden wrote. “We are standing united to address Russia’s challenges to European security, starting with its aggression in Ukraine, and there will be no doubt about the resolve of the United States to defend our democratic values, which we cannot separate from our interests.”

During the Trump administration, the White House refused to take action over Russian aggression in Ukraine. But the Biden administration has indicated that the nation will be among the topics of discussion during the Putin summit.

Zelensky played a central role in former US President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. A whistleblower complaint first flagged that, during a call between Zelensky and Trump in July 2019, Trump asked Zelensky for help digging up damaging material on Biden — his then-Democratic rival.

Zelensky told reporters on Thursday that he felt the US’ lift on Nord Stream 2 sanctions would be a victory for Russia and a personal loss for Biden.

The Biden administration indicated last month that it had decided against sanctioning the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite strongly opposing the project, signaling that it is prioritizing unity with allies over concerns about a potential geopolitical threat.
The administration instead opted to sanction some of the smaller entities involved in the project, including some Russian companies and ships that have been helping in the construction.

This story has been updated with additional information Monday.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc, Lauren Kent, Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand and Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.

2021-06-07 21:01:09

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