Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Before Their Meeting
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Office of the President of Ukraine
January 19, 2022
PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: (Via translator) I would like to first thank you and your colleagues for your visit. Your visit is very important to us, your visit personally. This underscores once again the strong support for Ukraine's independence and sovereignty from the United States.
I want to say that we appreciate our ongoing contacts, including with you, telephone contacts, support contacts, contacts between you and the minister of foreign affairs, and in general high-level contacts - by the White House, by President Biden's representatives, with the office of the president, and by Mr. Sullivan with Andriy Yermak, and between us at the level of presidents - constant contacts. And there are really a lot of them.
This indicates not just words, but concrete support. What is the result of such support? And this is something I would also like to thank you personally, President Biden and the United States administration for at the beginning of our conversation - for your support, military assistance to Ukraine, for increasing this assistance, for the assistance that is already being provided by the United States, and - I am confident - will continue in the future.
This support speaks not only about our strategic plans for Ukraine's accession to the Alliance, but most importantly, I think, about the level of our army, the provisions for our army. Yes, the budget of Ukraine - we allocate the maximum funds in all the years of independence of our state - the maximum money to support our army. But at the same time we understand: to take very fast steps to modernize the army - we need help here, especially help in such times, difficult times - I think these times can be called difficult.
I think the agenda of our conversation is first and foremost about security matters. I would also like to raise some economic issues that depend on the security situation. And so I started, and I want to give the floor to you, and then let's move on to the agenda. I think we generally have the same agenda, but we still want to discuss some things in detail, because your intelligence is excellent, but you are far overseas, and we are here, and I think we know some things a little bit deeper about our state.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, Mr. President, thank you so much for receiving us and receiving me again today. It's very good to see you again. I am tempted to say the last thing that you need is another visitor, because I think Kyiv may be the most popular destination in the world right now.
But I did want to return, and in fact President Biden asked me to do so. And he really asked me to do so for three reasons. First, to reaffirm to you, to your colleagues, and to all of our Ukrainian friends the support that the United States has for Ukraine, and to affirm that now as ever it is up to Ukrainians and no one else to decide their own future and the future of this country. The Ukrainian people chose a democratic and European path in 1991. They took to the Maidan to defend that choice in 2013. And unfortunately, ever since you've faced relentless aggression from Moscow. Russia invaded territory in the Crimea, ginned up a conflict in eastern Ukraine, and has systematically sought to undermine and divide Ukraine's democracy.
Today there are some 100,000 Russian soldiers near Ukraine's borders, and in that sense the threat to Ukraine is unprecedented. So the President asked me to underscore once again our commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity, to its sovereignty, to its independence. And I know that's a message that you've heard not just from us, but from so many partners throughout Europe, including just in the last couple of days.
Second, the President wanted me to come and have the opportunity to speak directly with you, with all of our colleagues here about the week of intensive diplomacy that we just engaged in and completed with Russia, and to consult and coordinate on the next steps, including my meeting on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
Across all of our engagements, we have made clear the clear preference for finding a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and to de-escalate the situation. That is the clear preference. It's also the most responsible thing that any of us can do.
At the same time, we've made it very clear to Moscow that if it chooses to renew aggression against Ukraine, it will mean that it will face very severe consequences - and again, that's coming not just from the United States but from countries across Europe and beyond.
Meetings like this one, Mr. President, and the consultations that I'll have tomorrow in Berlin with some of our other European partners are aimed at assuring that we are speaking clearly and with one voice to Moscow. And that brings me to the third and final point that the President wants me to focus on and asked me to focus on, and that is: Our strength depends on preserving our unity, and that includes unity within Ukraine. I think one of Moscow's longstanding goals has been to try to sow divisions between and within countries, and quite simply we cannot and will not let them do that.
So our message to all of our friends here and to all of Ukraine's global leaders, to its citizens alike, is to stick together and to hold on to that unity, to strengthen it. It's never been more important, particularly as the country faces the possibility of renewed Russian aggression. Together, as you've shown in recent years, there is no obstacle that Ukrainians together, with the support of so many friends around the world, including the United States - no obstacle that you cannot overcome, and I wanted to reaffirm that as well. So thank you again, Mr. President, for receiving us today.
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