President Biden on Wednesday reassured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the U.S. will stand by Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
At the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders at the White House, Mr. Biden said he wants Europe “free and at peace” and safe from Russian aggression.
Mr. Zelenskyy agreed, saying Russian expansion is one of the most critical issues facing his nation, which lost Crimea to Russian annexation and is fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“We have to focus very much now on the security issues which are most important — security in the Ukraine Donbas and in the Ukrainian Crimea occupied by the Russian Federation, security in the Black Sea and security in the Azov Sea,” he said through an interpreter.
Mr. Biden was expected to discuss how the U.S. could continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine, which has spoken out against Russian plans for expansion in the region.
The U.S. this week committed to providing a $60 million security assistance package for Ukraine that will include Javelin anti-armor systems and other lethal and nonlethal defensive weapons.
Since 2014, the U.S. has committed $2.5 billion to support Ukrainian forces, including more than $400 million in 2021, according to the White House.
Mr. Zelenskyy was particularly focused on securing U.S. support in ejecting Russia from Crimea, a peninsula extending into the Black Sea that Russia annexed in 2014.
Russia’s control has been decried by the Western world as illegal, though little has been done to force Russia to return it to Ukraine.
At the recent Crimean Platform summit in Kyiv, Mr. Zelenskyy pledged to “do everything possible to return Crimea, so that Crimea, together with Ukraine, becomes part of Europe.”
“For this, we will use all possible political, legal and first and foremost diplomatic means,” Mr. Zelenskyy said, adding that Kyiv needs “effective support at the international level.”
The U.S. pledged an additional $45 million in humanitarian assistance to help Ukraine assist citizens impacted by the Crimea crisis, a White House official told reporters.
Mr. Biden, meanwhile, discussed ways in which the two countries could cooperate on their shared energy and climate goals and the COVID-19 crisis.
The U.S. provided $55 million in COVID-related assistance and donated nearly 2.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Ukraine, the White House said.