WASHINGTON (AP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose hopes of a White House meeting played a central role in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, will finally have his chance to have an Oval Office in the end of next month.
The White House announced in June that President Joe Biden had invited Zelenskyy for the end of the summer. But the administration decided to publicly announce the exact date of Zelenskyy’s visit – August 30 – as a senior State Department official confirmed on Wednesday that the United States and Germany had reached a agreement on a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Europe which Ukraine vehemently opposes. .
“The visit will confirm the unwavering support of the United States for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of the ongoing Russian aggression in Donbass and Crimea, our close cooperation on energy security, and our support for President Zelenskyy’s efforts to fight corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our common democratic values, ”White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Zelenskyy played a significant role in Trump’s first impeachment.
Trump’s 2019 call with Zelenskyy spurred Congressional investigation after it was revealed Trump asked him to “do us a favor” and investigate the activity of Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine. One of the officials most involved in the effort, Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said Trump had repeatedly insisted there was “no quid pro quo “in his request.
But Sondland also said it was widely understood by both sides that Zelenskyy, then Ukraine’s new president, would only get a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office if he made a public commitment to investigate the Bidens and Democrats in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
Trump was acquitted by the Senate, and an Oval Office face-to-face between the 45th president never materialized.
The Biden administration also announced on Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with Germany that will allow the completion of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe without the imposition of new U.S. sanctions.
U.S. officials on both sides have long feared this would give Russia too much power over European gas supplies, potentially cutting gas off to Russian adversaries Ukraine and Poland. But the pipeline is nearing completion and the United States is determined to reconnect with Germany that was damaged during the Trump administration.
Biden said he renewed his concerns to German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she visited him in the White House last week. Merkel sought to minimize the differences and stressed that the pipeline is in addition to Ukrainian pipelines – not its relocation. The United States and Germany are expected to make certain concessions to Ukraine and Poland as part of the deal that paves the way for the completion of the pipeline.
The meeting comes at a time when Kiev is increasingly concerned about US-Ukrainian relations.
Last month, Zelenskyy publicly expressed concerns over Biden’s decision to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and over the pipeline.
There also appear to be differences between the two parties as to the date of the meeting. Zelenskyy tweeted shortly after sending the invitation that Biden had invited him to visit in July.
But a senior administration official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the private conversation between the two leaders, said the White House “never specified which month it was going to take place.”
Associated Press diplomatic correspondent Matthew Lee contributed reporting.