June 7 (UPI) — President Joe Biden has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit the White House this summer, the administration’s top national security official said Monday.
Biden told Zelensky in a phone conversation “that he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House in Washington this summer after he returns from Europe,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters during a press briefing.
Biden made the show of support for his Ukrainian counterpart as he prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in a high-stakes discussion expected to focus in part on Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, including the massing of troops along their common border earlier this year.
Zelensky urged in an interview published over the weekend that Biden meet with him before his scheduled June 16 discussions with Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, which are set to follow the Group of Seven meeting in London and a NATO summit in Brussels.
Sullivan, however, indicated that would not happen and said Monday’s call was meant to show support for Ukraine and demonstrate Biden’s commitment to Ukraine’s security concerns regarding Russia.
“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 Zelensky that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations as we go forward,” he said.
A statement issued Monday by Zelensky’s office said the Ukrainian leader has accepted Biden’s invitation to visit in July.
During the conversation, the American leader “reaffirmed the unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and noted Volodymyr Zelensky’s leadership in implementing fundamental reforms in the country,” the statement said.
Zelensky stressed that “there was still a high concentration of Russian troops and heavy weapons” along the border and in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbas region, which has been occupied by Russian and Russian-backed separatist forces since 2014.