Charge d’Affaires of the United States in Ukraine Kristina Kvien expressed confidence that a telephone conversation between U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will take place.
“Secretary Blinken’s remarks confirm that Ukraine will be a high priority for the administration and there’s no doubt that a call between President Biden and President Zelensky will happen,” Kvien said in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine.
In turn, Deputy Political Counselor Lynette Behnke pointed out that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine hopes that both presidents will be able to talk directly, that it is essential to recall that, nevertheless, much has been achieved at other levels, somewhat below the level of the leaders of the countries.
“In early February, very early in this administration, Secretary Blinken spoke to his counterpart, Foreign Minister Kuleba. Defense Minister Taran has spoken with Defense Secretary Austin. Head of the Presidential Office Yermak spoke to National Security Advisor Sullivan. Other senior officials will connect in the near future. And every day at Embassy Kyiv we are working together with our Ukrainian counterparts on our common priorities,” she explained.
Behnke noted that both the White House and Secretary of State Blinken have repeatedly stressed the United States’ commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The Secretary made a very strong statement supporting Ukraine on the 7th anniversary of the purported annexation of Crimea. He made a special video to underline his personal commitment. The Biden administration has wholeheartedly welcomed Ukraine’s Crimean Platform initiative,” she added.
“Meanwhile, our security and development assistance continues unabated. To give a concrete example, we announced another tranche of $125 million in security assistance on March 5,” Behnke said.
The United States will continue to work with Ukraine on a wide range of common interests, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien has said.
“As President Biden’s administration has affirmed, the United States remains committed to Ukraine as one of our closest partners and friends, and we continue to work together across the full range of our extensive mutual interest,” Kvien said in a video statement at Kyiv Security Forum hosted by Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Open Ukraine Foundation on Wednesday.
According to U.S. Charge d’Affaires, today it can be recognized that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has faced challenges on the way to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine and fighting corruption, which causes “a significant obstacle to inclusive economic growth and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”
“On fight against corruption, we have witnessed persistent attacks by vested interests who seek to undermine the independence and effectiveness of Ukraine’s anticorruption infrastructure, and an effort to avoid accountability for their corrupt behavior,” the diplomat said.
Kvien commended the Verkhovna Rada’s adoption in the first reading of the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine, as well as Zelensky’s commitment to conduct a comprehensive judicial reform, which is a very necessary step to reduce corruption in Ukraine.
She said the main directions of the U.S. policy towards Ukraine have broad bipartisan support in Washington. “United States should, in coordination with international financial institutions, EU and G7 continue to provide assistance to help Ukraine build modern democratic economy that is fully compatible with EU standards and norms. That assistance should be linked to effective reform measures,” the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine said.
She recalled that since 2014, the United States has provided assistance to Ukraine totaling $4.5 billion and pledged that the United States will continue to provide this assistance to advance reforms and strengthen security.
Kvien said the new U.S. leadership is actively supporting Ukraine, as discussed by U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. She also said that recently it was announced that Ihor Kolomoisky was included in the sanctions list.
U.S. President Joe Biden should establish direct and trusting relations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in order to return to normal relations between the countries, experts say.
This recommendation is contained in the “Biden and Ukraine” strategy developed for the administration of new U.S. President Joe Biden, which was released on Friday.
The authors of the work are former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, former Ambassadors to Ukraine John Herbst and William Taylor, chief analyst of the Eurasian Center of the Atlantic Council Anders Aslund, former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried and Deputy Director of the Eurasian Center of the Atlantic Council Melinda Haring.
“The first order of business should be to establish straightforward relationship, a relationship of trust between Biden and Zelensky after efforts by Trump to leverage the United States’ relationship with Ukraine for his own political benefit. Despite Trump’s actions and the subsequent impeachment process, the United States continued to provide bipartisan support for Ukraine, which testifies to its important interests there and the wisdom of congressional leaders. Still, this experience has left the Zelensky team with real concerns about its relationship with Washington and its image among the U.S. public,” the experts said in the document.
The authors believe that a return to normal the U.S.-Ukrainian relations “will inevitably take time” as the new administrative staff its senior foreign policy ranks.
According to the recommendations, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already called Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba and “it is important that Biden, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan be in touch soon with their Ukrainian counterparts to underscore the administration’s commitment to cooperate closely with Ukraine.”
“The big objectives of the U.S. policy have been the same since 2014: to help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Kremlin aggression, and to help Ukraine undertake the reforms needed to become a nation of laws with a growing and prosperous economy. The Biden team is uniquely qualified to pursue these objectives successfully,” the analysts said.
In addition, they said that vice president, Biden was a hands-on policy maker for Ukraine.
“Now, as president, he will not have the time for that, but he should reach out to Zelensky, first by phone Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attend a joint news conference after a Normandy-format summit in Paris, France, December 9, 2019. Establishing a president-to-president understanding will facilitate policy dealings at lower levels and increase US clout in Kyiv, which will prove important as it works with Ukraine on difficult reform issues,” according to the recommendations.
In their opinion, it is necessary to appoint an ambassador to Ukraine as soon as possible and work with Congress to increase military assistance to Kyiv in the amount of up to $500 million per year.
“Appoint an ambassador as soon as possible. Quickly name a strong candidate who has Biden and Blinken’s trust as the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and work for their quick Senate confirmation and dispatch to Ukraine,” the experts said in the document.
“Name a special envoy or empower a senior subcabinet official to either join the Normandy Format or to consult frequently with the four players,” the authors said.
Member of Parliament Andriy Derkach has released recordings of telephone conversations between persons with voices similar to those of Ukraine’s former President Petro Poroshenko and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Derkach earlier released similar audio snippets, saying he received them from “investigative journalists.”
Derkach said the latest recorded conversation took place on August 19, 2016 and was about the detention of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea, whom Russia’s Federal Security Service labelled “members of Ukrainian sabotage terrorist groups.” Ukraine at the time denied the accusation.
“My team has briefed me in considerable detail regarding the events that took transpired over the weekend, on [August] 6th and 7th,” a voice similar to Biden’s is heard saying to Poroshenko without mentioning what, specifically, the events were.
“…These actions have left the president and me a little concerned. […] As you know, we intervened once before this when we learned that your HUR [the General Staff] was going to take some action. And we made it clear that we did not support that. And you stood down, and the next thing this happens. I will say very frankly – he is not real happy. So the head of your military intelligence chief received a clear signal from us a several weeks ago regarding our strong disapproval of the planned sabotage operation against military targets inside Russian territory. And I know that Crimea is Ukraine, and it is illegally occupied. However, we strongly, strongly believe that raising the cost on Russia can only be done via political and diplomatic means, and not military and sabotage operations,” says the voice resembling Biden’s.
“…We know what it was. Four frogmen were intercepted, all four escaped and the next night friendly fire that had nothing to do with you guys, but [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is trying to make some big deal out of this,” says voice resembling Biden’s.
“…This happened when I was on a visit to the Far East. We are undertaking important steps to make it impossible to repeat this situation in the future. The only reason that we are not dismissing the chief of military intelligence… I would hate to do it immediately, that is, now, because anyone will be able to interpret it as a recognizing responsibility,” replies a voice similar to Poroshenko’s.
“…We are still making efforts to organize a telephone conversation with Putin, but he rejected it. I think he wants to hold a meeting of the [Russian] Security Council in Crimea today. …In any case, he does not make new attempts to blame Ukraine, with new names, new killed [persons] or wounded people, because they have nobody. They have nobody to [blame] for this, this crazy idea, this diversion attack against the airport, I don’t know, against ports or infrastructure. This is simply not true. …We don’t open fire, we don’t use military force,” a voice resembling Poroshenko’s replies.
Derkach said “one of the participants in the events (allegedly discussed by Biden and Poroshenko) is Valeriy Kondratiuk [who in 2016 headed the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukraine’s Defense Ministry], adding that Kondratiuk was recently appointed to head Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
“The person who had a direct attitude to the planned terrorist attacks and sabotage against citizens of Ukraine, today is a member of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council and heads the Foreign Intelligence Service, reporting directly to Ukraine’s president. The question is to which president?” Derkach said.
The official telephone conversation of Biden and Poroshenko was purportedly made on August 14, 2016. The White House at the time said that “U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has discussed with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko the latest tensions in Russia-occupied Crimea. The Vice President urged President Poroshenko to do his part in order to avoid the escalation of tension and Washington also called on the Russian side to avoid escalating the conflict,” Derkach said.
According to Derkach, at the time of the alleged telephone call, Biden noted Poroshenko’s efforts to find ways to resolve the situation, emphasizing that the America “is closely monitoring all the events surrounding the Crimean provocation, the responsibility for which lies with Russia in full.”
Russia, meanwhile, said it had liquidated the “agent network” in Crimea and detained a group of Ukrainian and Russian citizens “who had assisted in the preparation of the attacks.” They named a resident of Enerhodar, Zaporizhia region, Yevhen Panov, whom they identified as an employee of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Foreign Intelligence Service and National Security and Defense Council at the time denied reports of Ukrainian saboteurs. The Defense Ministry said Russia’s allegations that Ukrainian forces had shelled the peninsula from the mainland were groundless.
Former President Petro Poroshenko at the time said that the Russian accusations of Ukrainian terrorism in the occupied Crimea were unfounded and were intended to lay the groundwork for future military threats against the Ukrainian state.
On August 11, 2016, Poroshenko at a meeting with the leadership of law enforcement agencies and the Foreign Ministry ordered that units near the administrative border of the Kherson region and Crimea be brought to enhanced combat readiness.
U.S. President Donald Trump has explained that during a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, he talked about a probe into the case of a company related to former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, in the context of Zelensky’s promise to fight against corruption in Ukraine.
“I want him to do whatever he can. This was not his fault; he wasn’t there. He’s just been here recently. But whatever he can do in terms of corruption, because the corruption is massive. Now, when Biden’s son walks away with millions of dollars from Ukraine, and he knows nothing, and they’re paying him millions of dollars, that’s corruption. When Biden’s son walks out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund. <…> I think that’s a horrible thing. I think it’s a horrible thing,” he said during a bilateral meeting with Zelensky in New York City on Wednesday, September 25.
“I know the President, and I’ve read a lot about Ukraine. I’ve read a lot about a lot of countries. He wants to stop corruption. He was elected – I think, number one – on the basis of stopping corruption, which unfortunately has plagued Ukraine. And if he could do that, he’s doing, really, the whole world a big favor. I know – and I think he’s going to be successful,” Trump emphasized.
The U.S. president also spoke about the need to fight corruption in response to Zelensky’s call to invest in Ukraine.
Zelensky told Trump about the large number of laws currently being adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which are aimed at reforming the law enforcement system to combat corruption and the economy.
Then, in a conversation with the media, Trump, recalling the scandal with deleted emails of ex-head of the Department of State and former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and addressing Zelensky, said: “We have corruption also, Mr. President. We have a lot of corruption in our government.”