A group of more than 20 US lawmakers on Friday met virtually with Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelensky to pledge US support for his country as more than 100,000 Russian troops remain massed along the Ukraine-Russia border and tensions between the Kremlin and the west continue to rise.
In a statement, Mr Zelensky said he briefed the bipartisan group on “steps being taken to achieve peace” with Russia by way of the Normandy, Trilateral Contact Group and Minsk processes and stressed the importance of US involvement.
"Now, more than ever, it is not words that matter, but decisive action. My goal is to stop the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. It is impossible to imagine security in Europe without ending the war in Donbas," Mr Zelensky said.
Mr Zelensky also echoed comments made by a senior White House official on Thursday who said any negotiations on Ukraine’s future Nato membership between the US or its’ allies and Russia would take place under “nothing about you without you” principles.
"No agreements on Ukraine without Ukraine. No third country cannot get a say on Ukraine's integration into Nato," he said.
One participant on the call, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, said he and his colleagues expressed “strong solidarity with the people and the democratically-elected government of Ukraine”.
Mr Portman added that Washington “must stand” with Kyiv as Russia continues to threaten its “freedom and territorial integrity” by increasing the amount of military hardware sent to shore up Ukraine’s defences and by placing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
Specifically, he called for increasing the “amount of lethal defensive weaponry” furnished to Ukrainian forces and “tailoring” the aid to threats Ukraine will face so her forces may better defend themselves.
The Republican senator, who co-chairs the Congressional Ukraine Caucus said Ukraine’s military “has made great strides in its increased proficiency and professionalism” and called it “a battle-hardened force that has benefitted from four years of material and training support from the United States and if necessary is prepared to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Mr Portman also called for the Biden administration to reject Russian president Vladimir Putin’s call to begin talks on the future of Europe security situation in Geneva next month.
On Thursday, the White House said officials were “prepared” to meet but would not commit to a date or location for any talks.
“President Putin’s demands for a sweeping dialogue to reset the security situation in Eastern Europe should not be recognized when they are made at the barrel of a gun. I strongly urge the Biden administration to begin to increase military assistance, including lethal assistance, to our allies. Russia must know that any offensive military actions it takes against Europe will be at a high price,” Mr Portman said. “Seven years ago, in the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine and its people stood up to their Russian-backed leaders and turned to the West. They have chosen to stand with us. Now, the United States must stand with them”.
The House of Representatives co-chairs of the Ukraine Caucus, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, Marcy Kaptur, Andy Harris and Mike Quigley, said in a statement that the entire Ukraine Caucus “stands in solidarity” with the US ally.
The four House members said they told Mr Zelensky that Ukraine’s “security and sovereignty” were not concerns “for her alone to bear,” but were “a cause for which all liberty-loving nations of the world provide their unrelenting support”.
“With the Kremlin weighing another illegal assault on its neighbour, the United States should pursue all appropriate measures to avert such action. Russia already invaded Ukraine in 2014, causing the deaths of 14,000 innocents,” they said. “The United States must immediately provide increased defensive military assistance to Ukraine and sanction Nord Stream 2. The creeping threat of war necessitates swift U.S. action for the defence of transatlantic security”.
Last week, Senate Democrats agreed to allow floor vote on a GOP-backed bill levying sanctions on the controversial pipeline to take place next month in exchange for Texas senator Ted Cruz lifting holds on dozens of President Joe Biden’s ambassadorial nominees.
The Senate returns to Washington on 3 January.
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