Washington : US President Joe Biden has discussed security issues and bilateral ties in his first meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
At the beginning of their meeting on Wednesday in the Oval Office, Biden said “the United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression and our support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” Xinhua reported.
Biden announced an additional $60 million in security assistance to Ukraine, and the creation of a new strategic defence framework as well as an energy and climate dialogue.
Zelensky said in his remarks that he expected to discuss the security situation in Crimea and Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, and “Ukraine’s chances to join NATO.”
Crimea was incorporated into Russia in March 2014, following a popular referendum, which Ukraine and the West never recognized.
The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which began in April 2014, has claimed some 14,000 lives and left as many as 40,000 wounded. Kiev blamed Moscow for inciting the conflict. Russia, however, has denied the charges, saying the accusations are groundless.
The $60 million security package included Javelin anti-armor systems and “other defensive lethal and non-lethal capabilities,” according to a US-Ukraine joint statement.
The statement also covered topics of US support of Ukraine’s reform and combatting corruption agenda, economic cooperation, and pandemic response.
The meeting between the two leaders was initially scheduled on Monday but was delayed as the Biden administration was focused on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Zelensky met separately with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.
The visit came at a time of growing concerns in Kiev about its relations with Washington.
Before the visit, Zelensky expressed his frustration with Western allies’ hesitancy to greenlight Ukraine’s accession to NATO in an interview with The Washington Post and other media outlets.
Zelensky has been critical of America’s weakening opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will transport Russian gas to Germany. Ukraine sees the project as a security threat.
Despite the long-time opposition, the Biden administration reached a deal with Germany that allowed the completion of the pipeline project. Berlin agreed to support Ukraine to strengthen its energy sector and act against Russia if it weaponizes the energy.