Biden reassures Ukraine’s Zelensky of US support amid Russian aggression

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President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday afternoon to assure him that the U.S. and European allies will take “strong” steps to punish Russia if it invades Ukraine.

The call Thursday afternoon lasted over an hour, and a senior Biden administration official characterized it as “very warm.” 

“President Biden made very clear continued U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the senior official said. 

The official said that Biden provided Zelensky with a readout of his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, during which Biden warned that Russia would face harsh economic penalties if it were to invade Ukraine. The Biden administration has not gone into detail publicly about what those sanctions would look like.

The official also said that Biden made “crystal clear” that “if Ukraine is on the agenda then Ukraine is at the table.”

Biden has held a flurry of calls in the past three days as the U.S. aims to bring down tensions and convince Russia to pull back from its aggressive posture on its border with Ukraine. On Thursday afternoon, Biden also spoke with leaders of the “Budapest Nine,” or Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, regarding his call with Putin.

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine, raising concerns about a possible military invasion.

The White House has declined to say whether it has seen signs of Russia changing its behavior following the threat of sanctions.

“It is going to be up to President Putin to make a decision about whether he is going to invade Ukraine and send a message to the global community that he does not respect the territorial integrity of the country when the United States, our European partners are sending a clear message that there will be significant economic consequences, severe economic consequences beyond … what we have seen in 2014,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Thursday. “The ball is in his court.”

The Biden administration said that it would also provide additional security assistance to Ukraine and would likely send forces to NATO’s eastern flank in the event of a Russian incursion 

However, Biden on Wednesday said the U.S. was not considering unilaterally sending forces to defend Ukraine. 

Tags Jen Psaki Joe Biden Russia Ukraine Ukraine Ukraine-Russia conflict Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky

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