WASHINGTON – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, pleading to meet U.S. President Joe Biden prior to Biden’s talks in Geneva next week, was rebuffed by the White House on that request but was awarded a consolation phone call on Monday that included an invitation to Washington.
“They had the opportunity to talk at some length about all of the issues in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, and President Biden was able to tell President Zelenskiy that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations as we go forward,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told White House reporters.
Sullivan also said Biden told the Ukrainian president that “he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House here in Washington this summer after he returns from Europe.”
Following the phone call, Zelenskiy said the U.S. president invited him to visit in July.
Thank you @POTUS @JoeBiden for inviting me to visit the @WhiteHouse in July during our phone conversation. I look forward to this meeting to discuss ways to expand strategic cooperation between Ukraine and #USA
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 7, 2021
In an interview conducted remotely on Friday with the online Axios news site, Zelenskiy implored Biden to meet with him “at any moment at any spot on the planet” prior to the U.S. president’s visit to Geneva, Switzerland.
Biden departs Wednesday on his first overseas trip as president that prior to the talks with Putin on June 16 will have him interacting with several dozen leaders at the G-7 summit in Cornwall in the United Kingdom, as well as at NATO and European Union gatherings in Brussels, Belgium.
Zelenskiy, however, is not among the leaders Biden is scheduled to meet at those venues.
Kyiv is seeking from Washington additional military aid as it continues to battle Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country. It also seeks backing for its bid for NATO membership. The Kremlin has warned that Ukraine joining the Western military alliance would be “deeply unacceptable.”
Asked about whether that subject was raised, Sullivan replied to a reporter in the White House briefing room: “In terms of the specifics of what they discussed, I’m going to let the two of them speak for themselves. I’m not going to read out that aspect of the meeting.”
In the Axios interview, Zelenskiy, a professional comedian who was elected president in 2019, said he was surprised and disappointed that Biden had not done more to prevent development of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, which is seen by Kyiv as a Kremlin project to eliminate it from the European gas transit system.
During the administration of former President Donald Trump, Zelenskiy was in the spotlight because of a phone call in 2019 in which Trump pressured him to investigate Biden and his son Hunter’s activities in Ukraine.
Trump denied any wrongdoing concerning the call, which led to his first impeachment by the House of Representatives on charges of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress. Trump was subsequently acquitted during the Senate trial.