President Joseph Biden pledged to stand with Ukraine against Russian “aggression” in his first official phone call with his counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who raised concerns of troop movement near the border.
Biden “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea,” the White House said Friday in a readout of the call.
Ukraine has asked for international support as Russian builds up troops along their shared border, raising concerns of an escalation in the seven-year conflict. Four soldiers were killed in the eastern zone on March 26, marking the deadliest day since at least the summer of 2020. The U.S. has imposed sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014 and supporting separatist fighters, while providing Ukraine with military equipment, including Javelin anti-tank missiles.
“President Biden assured me that Ukraine will be never left alone against Russia’s aggression,” Zelenskiy said in a video address after the call. A full cease-fire is necessary to continue “the difficult but necessary talks” with international leaders, including France, Germany and Russia, as well as the U.S., on resolving the conflict in a diplomatic matter, he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that “Russia hasn’t threatened anyone and has never threatened anyone.” Earlier in the week, in answer to a question about about deployments near the border with Ukraine, he said Russia has the right to move troops within its territory at its own discretion,and blamed Western powers for sparking tensions in the region.
The U.S. also supports Zelenskiy’s “plan to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our shared democratic values that delivers justice, security, and prosperity to the people of Ukraine,” according to the White House readout.
Friday’s call followed conversations between Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers and their U.S. and U.K. counterparts about tensions in the eastern Donbas region.
© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.