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Visiting Ukrainian official says relations with U.S. remain ‘unshattered’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and then-President Donald Trump meet, Sept. 25, 2019. (The Presidential Office of Ukraine/WikiCommons)

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

The first Ukrainian administration official to visit Washington in months says bilateral relations remain strong despite the central role Ukraine has played in the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Ukrainian deputy prime minister for Europe and Euro-Atlantic integration, Dmytro Kuleba, told a press conference on December 13 that the strategic relationship remained “unshattered.”

Kuleba, who met this week with members of Congress, the State Department, and the White House, said his top priorities in the U.S. capital were to lobby the United States to impose sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline and enhance relations with NATO.

“We want NATO to be more ambitious toward Ukraine. We don’t only want to receive support, we want to contribute [to missions],” he said.

As signs of the strength of the bilateral relationship, Kuleba pointed to the decision by Congress to increase annual military support to $300 million and include sanctions related to the Nord Stream project in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Ukrainian official said he discussed with Trump administration officials a possible visit by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Washington — not the contents of the impeachment process.

The impeachment charges against Trump are related to whether he pressured Zelenskiy during a July 25 call to investigate Trump’s political opponent, Joe Biden.

Kuleba also defended Zelenskiy’s decision to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week to discuss peace in eastern Ukraine, saying it is the only way to make progress.

He said the two leaders will push ahead with small measures to build trust during the talks aimed at putting an end to the fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.

He said the Zelenskiy administration’s goals for 2020 will be land reform, privatization, and energy reform.