Biden to host White House visit for Ukraine president at heart of Trump’s first impeachment

Biden to host White House visit for Ukraine president at heart of Trump’s first impeachment
Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Washington DC on 30 August

President Joe Biden will host Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, at the White House on 30 August as the US nears a deal with Germany for a gas pipeline project opposed by Ukrainian officials.

It also marks Mr Zelensky’s first White House visit under Mr Biden’s presidency, following Mr Zelensky’s entanglement in Donald Trump’s first impeachment after the former president pressured his Ukraine counterpart to investigate then-candidate Mr Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for military aid.

The Ukraine president has long sought a White House invitation, which impeachment witnesses said was held up under Mr Trump without Mr Zelensky’s commitment to his politically motivated investigation.

A forthcoming preliminary agreement around the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline will reportedly allow its completion without additional sanctions, though the project has faced intense scrutiny from Ukraine, Poland and other countries over security concerns.

“The visit will affirm the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea, our close cooperation on energy security, and our backing for President Zelensky’s efforts to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our shared democratic values,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Following Mr Biden’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington earlier this month, Mr Zelensky said on Twitter: “I believe that our American [and] German partners will jointly oppose the aggressor, not encourage it. And no decision on Ukraine without Ukraine.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told members of Congress last month that the completion of the pipeline was a “fait accompli” and suggested that additional sanctions could undermine its rebuilding relationship with Germany that fractured under the previous administration.

But critics of the project have argued that the 764-mile pipeline – which would bypass Ukraine as natural gas flows from Russia to Europe, increasing its reliance on Russian energy – could also undermine its relationship with Kyiv and embolden Russian military occupation and aggression, and potentially strike a blow to Ukraine’s economy if it loses out on gas transit fees.

Congress – where both Democrats and Republicans have criticised the project – will not be in session when Mr Zelensky arrives.