INTERNATIONAL

U.S. backs Ukraine against Russian aggression: Pompeo

Key visit:Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Kyiv.APEfrem Lukatsky

Key visit:Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Kyiv.APEfrem Lukatsky  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the Trump administration was committed to supporting Ukraine in its defence against aggression by Russia, which invaded and annexed part of the country and is supporting a separatist insurgency.

“Today I’m here with a clear message: The U.S. sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one,” Mr. Pompeo said at a news conference after meeting with Ukraine’s leader in Kyiv. “Our commitment to support it will not waver.”

Impeachment trial

Ukraine is a “bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe,” Mr. Pompeo added.

His visit, in which he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was aimed at calming unease among Ukrainian officials about the relationship between Washington and Kyiv, which has been thrust into the spotlight because of the impeachment of President Donald Trump, based on charges of abuse of power and obstruction over the president’s actions on Ukraine.

Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Zelenskiy met before noon in the President’s office in central Kyiv, and the Ukrainian leader said they had talked about new steps to strengthen the partnership between the two nations.

“I don’t think these friendly and warm relations have been influenced by the impeachment trial of the president,” Mr. Zelenskiy said at a news conference with Mr. Pompeo when asked whether Mr. Trump’s impeachment had affected ties between Kyiv and Washington.

‘Relations strong’

While the two officials offered reassurances that relations were strong, Mr. Pompeo did not give Mr. Zelenskiy one thing he has sought since his election in April: an invitation to meet Mr. Trump at the White House, which would be an important signal to Russia of U.S. support for Ukraine. Mr. Pompeo’s message that Mr. Trump was not ready to receive Mr. Zelenskiy at the White House was a blow to the Ukrainian President’s national security efforts.

Evidence that Mr. Trump had earlier demanded, in return for such a visit, that Ukraine announce the start of an investigation that could benefit him, became an important part of the impeachment inquiry. In response to a question on Friday, Mr. Pompeo said a White House visit by Mr. Zelenskiy was not dependent on the kind of investigation that Mr. Trump had sought.

Ukrainian officials are angry that the Americans have granted Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, two visits with Mr. Trump in the White House, most recently in December.

In renewing his request for a meeting on Friday, Mr. Zelenskiy said, “If we have an important subject for this conversation other than strategy and tactics, but important things we can negotiate over, something to sign and that I can bring back, then I am ready to go tomorrow!”

Mr. Pompeo was the first official from Mr. Trump’s Cabinet to meet with Mr. Zelenskiy since the impeachment inquiry began.NY Times

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