Biden confirms support for Ukraine in the first call to leaders

President Joe Biden emphasized US support for Ukraine in his first call to Ukrainian leaders on Friday following reports of Russian military movements on the eastern border.

In a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Biden confirmed “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s continued aggression,” according to a White House statement.

The United States and Ukraine say Russia is increasing tensions in eastern Ukraine. In eastern Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014. Russia denies its military presence in Ukraine.

The Pentagon has accused Russia of violating the 2020 ceasefire this week. This includes the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers in the March 26 clash. Ukrainian troops have accused Russia of mortar attacks.

Ukraine and the United States “stand side by side when it comes to maintaining democracy,” Zelensky said in a tweet after the call. He called the partnership with Americans “important” for Ukrainians.

The White House also emphasized Biden’s commitment to revitalize the strategic partnership between the two countries, combat corruption and support Zelensky’s efforts to promote democratic reform.

President Donald Trump emphasized his close ties with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and resisted a call to put pressure on Russia to interfere with other countries, including the United States and Ukraine. Biden has publicly accused Putin of being a “murderer” since he took office.

Russia then recalled the Ambassador to the United States, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov continued this week with Russia’s dissatisfaction with Biden’s comments, saying Russia’s relations with the United States and its allies had “bottomed out.”

According to the White House, Zelensky and Biden also discussed cooperation to strengthen democracy in Eastern Europe and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Heinz contributed from Moscow.