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VIDEO: Bolton warns of ‘unfair Chinese trade practices’ during Kyiv visit

John Bolton speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says he has discussed Washington’s concerns about the threat of “unfair Chinese trade practices” with Ukrainian officials during his trip to Kyiv.

Asked on August 28 about a possible acquisition by China of Ukrainian defense company Motor Sich, Bolton said he did not want to discuss specific companies and that such deals were a sovereign matter for Ukraine, according to Reuters.

But he made clear that the U.S. administration disapproved of the transaction, telling reporters: “We laid out our concerns about…unfair Chinese trade practices, threats to national security we’ve seen in the United States.”

Speaking to RFE/RL in Kyiv on August 27, Bolton said the possible sale of Motor Sich — a maker of engines for missiles, helicopters, and jets – to the Chinese “is an issue that I think is significant for Ukraine, but [also] significant for the U.S., for Europe, for Japan, for Australia, Canada, other countries.”

He accused Beijing of using its “trade surpluses to gain economic leverage in countries around the world, to profit from defense technologies that others have developed.”

Earlier this month, Ukrainian media reported that two Chinese companies had reached an agreement with state-owned military concern Ukroboronprom to jointly purchase Motor Sich.

The Chinese firms, which are believed to be close to the government in Beijing, would receive a controlling stake, while Ukroboronprom would receive a blocking stake.

Motor Sich employs more than 20,000 people in the southwestern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya.

A possible sale to the Chinese provoked a raid of its headquarters by Ukraine’s Security Service in April 2018 and the seizure of its shares. At the time, the company was valued at nearly $500 million.

The United States has been a supporter of Ukraine since Russia annexed its Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and started backing separatists in eastern Ukraine in April 2014 in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people.

Washington has given Ukraine more than $3 billion in aid, including $1.5 billion in military goods over the past five years, and is advising the country on the reform of its armed forces.

During his meeting with Bolton in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed hope that the United States will become more involved in the negotiation process aimed at putting an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, according to a statement on the presidential website.

Zelenskiy also said that Ukraine would welcome the United States in the so-called Normandy format of negotiations, which currently involves Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this week that the leaders of the four countries would hold talks on the conflict next month.

After his talks with Zelenskiy, Bolton tweeted that he was “very impressed by his commitment to real reform to benefit the Ukrainian people,” adding that “a stable, prosperous, and free Ukraine is key to stability in Europe and beyond.”

He wrote in an earlier tweet that he had met with the acting head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, Ivan Bakanov, with whom he discussed “various ways Ukraine and the U.S. can strengthen collaboration across a wide range of national security activities.”

The White House national-security adviser told journalists that he underlined the “U.S. commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity” during his talks with Ukrainian officials, AFP reported.

Bolton also raised the prospect of Zelenskiy meeting U.S. President Donald Trump at an event in the Polish capital, Warsaw, this weekend to mark 80 years since the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Later in the day, he tweeted that he will head to Moldova and another former Soviet republic, Belarus, on August 29 to discuss “regional security matters” with leaders from both countries. “Looking forward to strengthening our diplomatic and economic ties,” he added.

Belarus’s presidential office on August 27 announced that Bolton would travel to Minsk where he would hold talks with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The trip will mark the highest-level U.S. government visit to Belarus in the past 20 years.

The Moldovan government said earlier that Bolton would visit its capital, Chisinau, on August 29.

Bolton’s Eastern European tour will most likely irritate Moscow that has been trying to restore its influence over former Soviet republics in recent years.