In one of his first trips as U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken met in Kyiv with top officials of the Ukrainian government to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty. At a press briefing with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Secretary Blinken said, “We are proud to stand by your side to secure a prosperous and democratic future for all the people of this country.”
The early May visit followed in the wake of the largest build-up of Russian troops on the border between the two countries since Russia attempted to annex Crimea in 2014. Over the last seven years, the conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 13,000 Ukrainians, including in fighting between Russia-led troops and Ukrainian military forces in eastern Ukraine.
Although some Russian troops have recently been withdrawn from the border, heavy military equipment and a significant number of Russian forces remain in place. “We’re monitoring the situation very, very closely,” Secretary Blinken said. He noted that he and President Zelenskiy discussed the support the United States has supplied and will continue to supply to strengthen Ukraine’s security and defenses. Secretary Blinken said the United States was “actively looking at strengthening even further our security cooperation and security assistance to Ukraine.”
Secretary Blinken made clear that in addition to the outside threat posed by Russia, Ukraine is also challenged by the internal threat of corruption. In a television interview, Secretary Blinken said corruption “eats away” at Ukraine’s democracy, and he condemned “oligarchs who are advancing their own interests instead of the interests of the Ukrainian people.” He praised Ukrainian officials for important legislative steps they have taken in enacting a reform agenda, but he noted that more progress must be made in the areas of corporate governance, judicial reform, and in ensuring a truly independent anticorruption board. These steps are vital, he said, to make sure that government is delivering for the people.
Secretary Blinken declared that the United States opposes corruption and Russia’s destabilizing actions towards Ukraine for the same reason: both seek “to take away from the Ukrainian people what is rightfully theirs, their right to make their own decisions…to chart their country’s future.”
Secretary Blinken emphasized that the United States deeply values its friendship and partnership with Ukraine in securing a democratic future for the Ukrainian people and looks forward to further invigorating that partnership in the years to come.