U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed Washington’s unwavering support for Ukraine as it battles Russia-backed forces in a deadly war in its easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
"The United States understands that Ukraine is an important country. It’s not just the geographic heart of Europe, it’s a bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe," Pompeo said after talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on January 31.
"The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy, and prosperity is a valiant one. Our commitment to support it will not waver," he added.
Along with aid provided by European countries, Kyiv counts on Washington for diplomatic support and military aid to buy Javelin anti-tank missiles and other hardware in the conflict.
Pompeo is the highest-ranking U.S. officials to visit Ukraine since lawmakers in Washington began the impeachment process of President Donald Trump.
Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power of office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival by withholding congressionally approved military aid and a highly desired invitation to the White House for Zelenskiy.
Pompeo rejected the notion that vital aid had been held back, adding he did not believe that “our warm and important relations have been influenced by the question of the impeachment."
He said no conditions had been put on a White House visit for Zelenskiy and that it would come at the “right time.”
“We'll find the appropriate opportunity," he said. He did not elaborate on when that could be or if an invitation had already been extended to the Ukrainian leader.
The visit also comes days after Pompeo reportedly asked an NPR journalist in anger, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”
Prior to meeting with Foreign Minister Vadym Prystayko, Pompeo attended a ceremony honoring those who have died in the nearly six-year war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014. Russia also seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula on March 2014 in a move not recognized by the international community.
Pompeo also underscored the importance of continued strong bilateral relations between the two countries, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
"At the same time, the U.S. side emphasized the importance of maintaining the high dynamics and effectiveness of reforms in Ukraine," it said.
Two-way trade between the United States and Ukraine reached nearly $4 billion in 2018, with particularly high volumes in mineral fuels, vehicles, iron and steel, and agricultural products.
Pompeo, who began his regional tour in London, will also travel to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.