Biden holds first appeal with Ukrainian president amid Russian ‘aggression’ in region

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President Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday in their first conversation since Biden took office.

The phone call came amid what the White House called an escalation of Russian “aggression” in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

Biden “affirmed the unwavering support of the United States for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of continued Russian aggression in Donbass and Crimea,” read a reading of the appeal. the White House.

The President reiterated his support for the United States’ “strategic partnership” with Ukraine and Zelensky’s anti-corruption program “based on our common democratic values ​​which ensure justice, security and prosperity for the Ukrainian people” , added the White House.

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Prior to Biden’s call, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior U.S. officials had discussed the issue with their Ukrainian counterparts in at least three calls, according to Politico.

Blinken expressed the administration’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of continued Russian aggression” in the region in one of the appeals, the department said. ‘State.

Ukraine had been pushing for the call with Biden for weeks in support of Russia, Politico reported.

Russian escalations include violations of a July 2020 ceasefire, negotiated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which resulted in the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers in the east of the country on March 26 and the injury of two more, Pentagon press Secretary John Kirby said.

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The Ukrainian military said the four men were killed in a mortar attack blamed on Russian troops. Russia denies having a military presence in the region. The State Department said Blinken had expressed condolences for the losses.

“Russia’s destabilizing actions are undermining the de-escalation of tensions that was achieved through an agreement brokered by the OSCE in July last year,” Kirby said of hundreds of reported ceasefire violations the last days. “In addition, we are aware of Ukrainian military reports regarding Russian troop movements at the borders of Ukraine.”

The Biden administration recently approved $ 125 million in deadly Ukraine aid for defense against Russia, according to Politico.

Ahead of the 2020 election, then-President Trump accused Biden of abusing his office while he was vice president by forcing the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor to help his son Hunter Biden who was then member of the board of directors of the Ukrainian oil company Burisma. No evidence of wrongdoing was found.

Trump himself was accused of asking Zelensky to investigate the Bidens during a phone call in July 2019, which led to his first arraignment in 2019, as it seemed likely that Biden would be his. political opponent. He was acquitted in February 2020.

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Reading Biden’s call with Zelensky by the White House added that the two leaders also discussed “the importance of close cooperation between the United States and Ukraine to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen democracy in the region “.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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