Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “We are committed to Ukraine’s independence, to its sovereignty, to its territorial integrity”

Channel 1 Los Angeles

5/6/2021

PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY:  (Via interpreter) I would like to apologize for infringing upon your rule procedure, but a couple opening remarks from myself and Secretary of State.  I would like to talk essentially and without emotions – unlikely emotions.

The United States of America is represented at this level for the first time in my life.  I have State Secretary here and Victoria Nuland and all the team.  This is the first meeting, but I have this feeling of familiarity because the team has been well-versed in our developments.  You’re well posted on all the details.  Sometimes, this is a disadvantage, but – to have such well-informed interlocutors, but your – the awareness of the U.S. team on the developments in the Ukrainian Donbas is striking.  And they’re supporting us not just in words but in deeds – our sovereignty, our territorial integrity.

And quite frankly, I’d like to say that we’ve made many steps to stop the buildup and escalation, the recent buildup along the Ukrainian borders.  And so we prevented some developments, especially coming from this side of the temporarily occupied areas in the Donbas and the Crimean peninsula that belongs to Ukraine.  And we discussed the issues not just of our occupied territories and the illegal annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation, but also Nord Stream 2.  This is of utmost importance and a very sensitive issue for Ukraine.

There are different positions imaginable in Europe.  Unfortunately, there is not always coinciding with the Ukraine’s stance, but we have a full understanding with the United States, and their sanction policy is very well present and appreciated by us.  Some things we have achieved, some where we have covered part of the distance, but the meeting has been very essential and significant.

We hope that this is going to be a fundamental year of our bilateral relations.  This is fundamental for Ukraine because this is the 30th anniversary of our regained independence, and under the auspices of this, we will open the Crimean Platform, the first venue to support Ukrainian Crimea and de-occupy the peninsula.  I invited President Biden and Vice President of the U.S.  We believe that this year, the year of such symbolic developments for Ukraine, the United States by all means will be with us and play – pay us a visit officially and not so officially.

Thank you very much.  The floor is yours.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Mr. President, thank you very, very much.  Thank you for your hospitality, thank you for already some very, very good and detailed meetings.  I’m particularly delighted to be back in Kyiv in Ukraine.  And I really came, as I told you, on one of my first trips as Secretary of State to convey personally on behalf of President Biden how deeply we value our friendship, our partnership with Ukraine.  And I think we are in the process of really reinvigorating that partnership.  We are proud to stand by your side to secure a prosperous and democratic future for all the people of this country.

And as the president told you when you spoke, and as I reiterated today, we are committed to Ukraine’s independence, to its sovereignty, to its territorial integrity.  And by the way, I’m pleased to note that that sentiment was very much shared by all of our colleagues at the G7 meeting that I just came from in London.  To some extent, what we’re doing today here reflects the breadth and depth of the relationship we have because even in the short amount of time that we’re here today, I was able to see leaders of the Rada this morning.  Had a very good meeting with my good friend, the foreign minister.  We’ve been working very closely together for – since I came to office.

I managed to visit the majestic St. Michael’s Monastery and was very grateful that his beatitude gave me a tour.  We were able to pay tribute to those who’ve lost their lives defending Ukraine’s democracy, and it’s very, very moving to be at the wall, to see the pictures of these individuals.  Monuments are powerful things, but I think this is especially powerful because you see in those pictures each life, and you think of the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the children who have lost their loved ones because they were defending Ukraine.  And it’s very, very, very powerful.

I’ll have an opportunity to see the prime minister as well.  We’ll be meeting with representatives of your very strong civil society.  And in all of this, I think it just shows the breadth of what we’re doing together.

As the president said, we had very wide-ranging discussions.  We talked about Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.  I emphasized the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to supporting the vital work that Ukraine is undertaking to advance reforms, to tackle corruption, to implement a strong reform agenda based on the shared democratic values we have.  We know from our own experiences we talked about, that the work of reforming institutions is hard.  There are powerful interests lined up against reform and against anticorruption efforts.  Those include external forces like Russia but also internal forces like oligarchs and other powerful individuals who are pursuing their own narrow interests through illegitimate means at the expense of the interests of the Ukrainian people.  And we know that effectively combating corruption is one of the most important issues to the Ukrainian people and it’s crucial to improving their lives, from the services they rely upon to the opportunities they are able to pursue.

So we talked about a number of areas where this work is so important: corporate governance, transparency, the integrity and independence of the anticorruption bodies, the judiciary, and we had a very good – a very good exchange on all of that.

Let me just say also that we spent some time talking about the threat that Russia continues to pose to Ukraine.  We’ve been watching this very, very closely and very, very carefully.  We’re proud to have supported Ukraine in the face of years of Russian aggression and pressure, from the invasion of Crimea to hostilities in the Donbas.  And of course, Ukraine was tested again just weeks ago this spring as Russia pushed more forces to Ukraine’s border than at any time since 2014 when it invaded.  And I can tell you, Mr. President, that we stand strongly with you.  Partners do as well.  I heard the same thing when I was at NATO a couple of weeks ago.  And we look to Russia to cease reckless and aggressive actions.

We’ll continue to strengthen our security partnership in close collaboration with you to make sure that Ukraine can defend itself against aggression.  We’re aware that Russia has withdrawn some forces from the border of Ukraine, but we also see that significant forces remain there, significant equipment remains there.  We’re monitoring the situation very, very closely.  As I said, regardless of the movement that Russia is making back and forth, one thing is tragically constant, and that is that there are casualties every day along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, and cyber attacks, abuses of its place in the seas, all of this is a daily occurrence.

And ultimately, let me just say in conclusion that we oppose Russia’s destabilizing actions toward Ukraine for the same reason we believe these anticorruption and rule of law reforms are so important, because corrupt interests and Russian aggression both seek in different ways to do the same thing, and that is to take away from the Ukrainian people what is rightfully theirs: their right to make their own decisions, to use their resources as they see fit, and whether that be resources, territory, justice, or simply the ability to chart the country’s future, those are decisions for a sovereign Ukraine and the Ukrainian people to make, and no one else.

So Mr. President, again, it’s so good to be here, but also so good to have an opportunity to work with you and to really reinvigorate the partnership between our countries.  Thank you.

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