US President Joe Biden used a first official telephone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday to offer strong support in Ukraine’s shutdown of Russian troops near its border.
Washington has been Ukraine’s most powerful ally since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, but ties were overshadowed by Ukraine’s reluctant involvement in events that led to the trial of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
The conversation came after Western countries and the transatlantic military alliance NATO expressed concern about Russian troop movements near the eastern Donbass region where Ukrainian troops are in conflict with Russian-backed forces.
“President Biden reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbass and Crimea,” a US statement said.
The conversation lasted about 50 minutes, according to Zelenskiy, chief of staff.
“We discussed the situation in the Donbass in detail. President Biden assured me that Ukraine will never be left alone against Russia’s aggression,” the Ukrainian president said in a video clip afterwards.
Russia said this week that an escalation in the Donbass could “destroy” Ukraine and warned of any NATO deployment.
‘Shoulder to shoulder’
Ukraine, Western countries and NATO accuse Russia of sending troops and heavy weapons to back powers in Donbass that seized an effort in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Russia says it only provides political and humanitarian support to separatist fighters in what it throws as an internal conflict. .
“We stand shoulder to shoulder when it comes to preserving our democracies,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter after the conversation.
Biden, a point guard for Ukraine when Vice President Barack Obama, also stressed Washington’s support for Zelensky’s anti-corruption and reform agenda.
Trump was accused in 2019 of what White House aides described as an attempt to withhold nearly $ 400 million in aid and a coveted visit to the White House unless Ukrainian officials announced investigations into Biden.
Trump denied wrongdoing and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate acquitted him.
Biden also expressed a desire to visit Ukraine again, as he had done as vice president, Zelensky’s office said.