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Senator Concerned Over Reports Top U.S. Envoy To Ukraine To Be Recalled Early

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is the minority leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. senator said he is concerned over reports that the Trump administration plans to recall its top diplomat from Ukraine after he gave critical testimony during the impeachment hearing.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), the minority leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter on December 17 asking him not to remove Ukraine Charge d'Affaires William Taylor prior to his visit to Kyiv next month.

"Recalling an ambassador and intentionally leaving a critical post vacant during a visit from the Secretary of State is highly irregular and perhaps unprecedented. I am concerned about the lack of Embassy leadership Ambassador Taylor’' absence would create at a time when Ukraine continues to face military aggression from Russia and looks to the United States in promoting its democratic reform process," Menendez said in his letter.

William Taylor (file photo)
William Taylor (file photo)

Taylor was a key witness in the Democratic-led House of Representatives' impeachment hearing last month into whether Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political opponent Joe Biden by withholding military aid and an invitation to the White House.

Taylor said he thought it was "crazy" to withhold military aid that Ukraine needed to fight Russian-backed forces in its eastern provinces.

Taylor was appointed earlier this year after the State Department recalled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He had previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in 2006-2009.

Pompeo will make his first trip to Kyiv as Secretary of State in January, according to media reports.

The State Department did not respond to an RFE/RL request for comment. His visit would send an important signal of Washington's support for Kyiv amid concerns the impeachment hearing has frayed U.S.-Ukraine relations.

"Your joint appearances with the Ambassador in Kyiv would also send a strong message of solidarity to our professional diplomatic service at a time when morale is historically low. By unceremoniously recalling Ambassador Taylor early, in a manner similar to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's removal, you would once again denigrate the role of our frontline diplomats serving around the world,” Menendez said.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.