Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a Press Availability

January 31, 2020
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Kyiv, Ukraine

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, Your Excellencies, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you very much. President of Ukraine.

PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: (Via interpreter) Distinguished Mr. Secretary of State, ladies and gentlemen, dear journalists, I am extremely glad to welcome today to Ukraine the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. Pompeo. This is a hallmark visit that clearly demonstrates the consistent and across-the-board support of our country by the United States of America.

The United States have been and will remain our key ally in defending sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We dearly appreciate efforts of President Trump and his administration on this track. We are grateful for your personal, unflinching, and unwavering stance regarding the war in Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Today, I expressed hope that the United States of America will be more actively engaged to the processes of peaceful settlement in the east of Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea, thanks to the appointment of a special official of the Department of State on this matter. We are grateful for the role of the United States of America for the result-oriented cooperation with NATO.

In particular, the relations between Kyiv and Washington are invariably strong because the groundwork for them is the full confidence, mutual understanding, and long-lasting strategic interest. It’s important that the systematic support of Ukraine enjoys bipartisan consensus in Congress of the United States. It is confirmed by the amount of program of aid for 2020 that amount to almost $700 million. I should separately note the assistance in security which make up 365 million of U.S. dollars and will significantly boost our defense capabilities. We appreciate your support in reforming the armed forces of Ukraine, supplying of arms and equipment, training for the Ukrainian formations.

Ukraine is ready to develop new forms of partnership with the United States in security sector, and it is confirmed by the first in history contract for the direct buying of anti-tank Javelin systems. We also talked about the strengthening of the navy of Ukraine, thanks to the Island boats, and reinforcement of air defense of Ukraine, where we are ready to consider options for buying the necessary arms and weapons. Ukraine actively cooperates with American partners for the successful reform of the defense industry. I am sure it will give a further impetus for the beneficial cooperation with top-rank defense U.S. companies.

In the course of our negotiations, I thanked for the efficient and viable sanction policy of the United States that helps us to stand up against the existing challenges, in particular in energy security and Nord Stream 2. We also took notice that the exemplary cooperation was our concerted work during the investigation of the shot-down Ukrainian airline in Iran. I thank the American partners for their support and very important information.

Regarding other strategic plans, I am sure that 2020 will become the year when we will significantly increase the investment and trade cooperation between Ukraine and the United States of America. We are interested to jointly reinforce the development of the railway sector of Ukraine. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Ukrzaliznytsia railway company are in negotiations about buying a new batch of locomotives produced in the United States.

We also count that the United States of America will be able to remove the hurdles such as preventive duty on steel import of 25 percent. This is a sensitive issue for our metallurgy experts, and we hope that this duty will be rescinded for Ukraine. We invite big American business to develop infrastructure of Ukraine and participation in road and bridge constructions as well as projects on natural gas and oil development. We expect the participation of American companies and tenders to develop the Black Sea offshore.

Besides Ukraine is striving to build an efficient cooperation with international finance and development cooperation, we are interested in implementing joint cases in different sectors of our country.

Taking stock, I would like to express time and again great gratitude to the Secretary of State of the United States Mike Pompeo and in his person to the United States for the across-the-board support and assistance of Ukraine and for these fruitful negotiations.

Yesterday, on the 30th of January, one of the most outstanding American politicians was born, Franklin Roosevelt, and he said the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts today. In the state of Ukraine, there is no doubt whatsoever regarding the strategic partnership with the United States of America. That’s why we are confident in the successful realization of all our common plans of Ukraine and the United States of America.

Thanks.

MODERATOR: A statement by the U.S. Secretary of State.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. I want to thank President Zelenskyy for welcoming me here, hosting me here. I had planned to get here earlier this year, but Iran-related matters prevented that. Thank you for your understanding.

I wanted to begin by expressing my condolences for the loss of life, Ukrainian life, in the incident in Tehran. We hope that we will continue to provide assistance in ensuring that the Iranians are held accountable for what took place there, and my condolences to the Ukrainian people for the loss of their lives.

Of course, this isn’t my first time to Ukraine. I traveled here as a member of Congress back in spring of 2014, shortly after the Maidan Revolution. I returned again in May a year later as a member of Congress, and then I came here in previous role as well as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency to work on security matters. It’s wonderful to be back and to watch the progress that the brave and valiant people of Ukraine are making.

President Zelenskyy and I just had an excellent meeting, talked about a range of issues. The Ukrainian people should know 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. Its fields help feed the European continent, and its pipelines keep Europe warm in the winter. And it’s a growing market for U.S. exports as well, and we’re happy about that.

The Ukrainian people want freedom. Nearly 14,000 Ukrainians have been killed and many more wounded defending their homeland in the ongoing conflict in the Donbas. It was my honor this morning to visit again St. Michael’s Memorial and pay my respects to those who have fallen.

Today, I am here with a clear message. 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. As I told President Zelenskyy earlier today, the commitment starts with our strong support for his efforts to strengthen democratic institutions in this country. The final victory for the Revolution of Dignity is within reach. The United States has worked hard to help Ukraine develop a strong rule of law, a healthy investment climate, a reformed defense sector, and energy independence, and we’ll continue to do so.

The president and I also had the opportunity to discuss Ukraine’s relationship with Russia. The United States under President Trump has been the world’s fiercest defender of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have maintained support for Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO and move closer to the European Union. We have revived the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission. In July of 2018, we released the Crimea Declaration, which clearly stated that Crimea is part of Ukraine and the United States will never recognize Russia’s attempts to annex it.

Last March, along with our partners in Canada and the EU, we coordinated sanctions in response to the unprovoked Russian attack on the Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait. And this December, we advanced sanctions legislation directed at Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which, if construction, will give the Kremlin a free hand to destabilize Ukraine. And since January of 2017, we have provided more than $1 billion in security assistance.

This commitment continues. We’ll maintain support for a diplomatic solution to the Russia-instigated conflict in east Ukraine, and we’ll maintain financial support for Ukraine’s security. We will never accept anything less than the full restoration of Ukraine’s control over its sovereign territory.

President Zelenskyy and I also had the chance to discuss trade and investment opportunities. They continue to expand. The more transparent and predictable business climate that is here in Ukraine, the more American investment that will be attracted. Western companies are great business partners because they embrace the rule of law – the very things that President Zelenskyy and Ukrainians are fighting for. I know their confidence to invest here will continue to grow as Ukraine complies with its IMF commitments.

Finally, I was pleased by the recent decisions by the Greek and Alexandrian Orthodox Churches to recognize the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as a fellow autocephalous church. Russia should never stand in the way of the Ukrainian people’s fundamental right to exercise their religious freedom. The Ukrainians can count on American support in that regard.

President Zelenskyy, thank you again so much, sir.

PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Colleagues, we have two questions planned, one from Ukrainian side and one from the American side. So Ukraine channel, please, Valeriya Shaporenko, right.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Valeriya Shaporenko, Ukraine Channel 24. I have one question to both leaders. I have a question to President Zelenskyy first. Do you agree that the situation with the impeachment trial of Donald Trump spoiled the Ukrainian-American relations?

PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: (Via interpreter) Well, thank you for your question. I was thinking when will this question appear when we have the meeting with the United States. We have also the question about impeachment trial of President Trump.

It seems to me it’s the other way around. We have excellent relations between our countries. We want these relations not only in words that the United States give us full support and defend Ukraine – this is really true – and support our territorial integrity. It is not only about words, and its support should be like a friendship between countries, should be mutually advantageous.

We talked about many different contracts in different sectors and industries that we want to conclude between our countries. It seems to me this is a new step in our relationship, a new sentiment, a new attitude. We have multiple meetings, and I don’t think that these friendly and warm relations have been influenced by impeachment trial of Mr. President, but many times I have reiterated this is our strategic ally and we are doing everything in our power to step up our cooperation. We are doing everything possible to ramp up investments in mutually beneficial projects. For us, this is the strategy like in Donbas, and this is the strategy in our country – job creation, salaries raising, and increase of social safety for our population.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) And a question to Mr. Pompeo. Now that the improvements of U.S.-Ukrainian relation will be an appointment of special representative, an invitation to President Zelenskyy to the United States, what is the – what is possible in the nearest time of these two?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I appreciate that question. Since January of 2017, one need no – look no further than the facts, the support that this administration has provided. And we talk about the assistance. That’s important. It’s certainly helpful for the Ukrainian people. It makes a difference for the United States as well. It’s to our benefit as well. But what really matters is the relationship that’s developing between the two countries in political and diplomatically, commercially and economically. These are the things that benefit each of our two countries.

We’ll get the diplomacy right. We’ll get that piece of it in the right place as time moves on. President Zelenskyy and President Trump had a fantastic meeting in New York this past September. I had the chance to see President Zelenskyy today, and I am very confident that we will engage at the senior levels at the appropriate time in all the ways that do the right thing. In the end, it’s less about talking, it’s less about what someone says, but about how we deliver together to deliver really good outcomes for both the Ukrainian people and the American people as well.

MODERATOR: We will have Matthew Lee from the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Thank you.

Mr. Secretary, you note the amount of assistance, military assistance, security assistance, and other assistance that the administration has given since January 2017. But it is a fact that last year for several months there was a portion of assistance that was being held up. It eventually moved, but it was being held up for a time.

My question is this: Was that aid or was a scheduled White House meeting for President Zelenskyy conditioned on a specific corruption investigation into Vice President son – Vice President Biden’s son and the Burisma company’s – involvement with Burisma? Was it then or is it now a condition of scheduling a White House meeting?

And for President Zelenskyy, are you still interested in a White House meeting with President Trump? And whether that is a condition – an investigation into the Bidens is a condition of that or not, is your country going to do that?

Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Matt, I am unsurprised by your question. I suspect you will not be unsurprised by my answer as well. No, there’s no condition of the nature you described for President Zelenskyy to come to Washington and have that visit. It’s just simply not the case.

We’ll find the right time. We’ll find the appropriate opportunity. We want to make sure that it happens at a time when there are substantial progress, things that we can deliver between the two of us, and there’s a lot of work. Our teams discussed today all the opportunities. We see the economic opportunity for American businesses coming here. We talked about a handful of them just this morning, companies by name, real projects.

President Zelenskyy will be welcome to come to Washington when we have an opportunity to do good things for both the Ukrainian people and the American people. We’ll get it done. I am confident of that.

PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: (Via interpreter) Thank you for your question. Yes, please, help yourself with the interpretation.

Well, you know if I am interested to go on an official visit to the White House, Washington, D.C., while frankly speaking that would be the right thing for both countries for the relations between our countries and the status of Ukraine as it is, but at the same time I would like to say that this is a new profession for me to be the president of Ukraine and I am receiving a lot of invitations to visit this or that countries on different matters.

From the outset, I came to understand and I talk – talked at length with a person who has more political and diplomatic experience – this is the minister of our foreign relation – and I’ll ask him, “What are we going to do there? Why are we going this or that country? What could we get there? What can we agree upon there? What can we get back for our country? What are we going to discuss so that talking is not just words of traveler – as it seems to me happened many times in our country and is happening in many countries now.”

But the pivotal point is that when you can – what you can agree upon. With all due respect to the United States of America, when we have the subject matter of the talk except strategy and tactics but also important things we can agree upon, what we can sign, what we can get done, I am ready to go tomorrow.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. (Inaudible.) The press briefing is over. Thank you for your questions and for the answers.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.

PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: Thank you very much.