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Pompeo pledges unwavering support for Ukraine

January 31, 2020

The top US diplomat said Washington stood behind Kyiv in "stopping Russia's aggression." Ukraine has been at the center of a series of domestic scandals in the US.

Mike Pompeo and Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Image: Reuters/G. Garanich

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Ukraine on Friday, becoming the first member of US President Donald Trump's cabinet to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Pompeo was seeking to smooth over relations after a call between Trump and Zelenskiy caused a domestic scandal that has led to Trump's impeachment.

"Pompeo assured Ukraine of the full support of the United States in stopping Russia's aggression and restoring Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in full," the Ukrainian government said in a statement after Pompeo met with Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko.

Last summer, according to witness accounts including former National Security Advisor John Bolton, President Trump temporarily withheld aid to Ukraine hoping that Zelenskiy's administration would announce an investigation into Hunter Biden. The son of Trump's Democratic rival, Joe Biden, used to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Kyiv relies on Washington not only for diplomatic support against aggression from neighboring Russia, but also military funding for anti-tank missiles and other equipment it needs to fight Russian-backed separatists in the country's east.

Other factors complicating the relationship between Kyiv and Washington include unfounded allegations by some Republican senators that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 US election and the campaign to remove former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, from her post.

Zelenskiy denies strained ties

Pompeo said ahead of talks with Zelenskiy on Friday that US support for Ukraine, diplomatically and financially, "will not waver."

"Today I'm here with a clear message: the United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one. Our commitment to support it will not waver," he said at a joint press conference.

The US top diplomat then denied claims that a visit to the White House sought by Zelenskiy's team was conditional on an official probe in Hunter Biden's business activities.

Zelenskiy, for his part, also denied that Ukraine's connection to Trump's impeachment had spoiled ties between the two countries.

He added that he hopes Pompeo's visit signals that the US will be "more actively involved in the peace process in eastern Ukraine and in bringing about an end to the occupation of Crimea."

About 13,000 people have died since Russia annexed Crimea and began promoting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine in 2014. 

es/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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