Details of Biden-Zelensky call revealed

In a call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, US President Joe Biden reportedly discussed his recent talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the Donbass crisis, NATO membership for Ukraine, and internal reforms in Kiev.

“I just finished a 1.5 hour-long talk with [Biden],” Zelensky tweeted on Thursday night, adding that the US leader “acquainted me with the content of his talks with Vladimir Putin” and that they discussed “possible formats for resolving the conflict in Donbass” and “the course of internal reforms in Ukraine.”

Biden and Putin spoke for over two hours on Tuesday, with Ukraine as the main topic of discussion, though the two leaders touched on other issues as well.

READ MORE: 5 key takeaways from Putin-Biden online summit 

During the call itself, Zelensky’s chief of staff told reporters that Biden had promised Ukraine military assistance against “external aggression” and said that for Washington, Ukraine’s membership in NATO was a decision purely for its people and the alliance. 

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Ukrainian navy ship came close to Russian waters off Crimea & refused to change course – Moscow

Moscow has said that any NATO offer of membership for Kiev would be a “red line” for Russia. 

US media reported earlier in the day that Biden could advise Zelensky to provide wider autonomy to the two regions in the eastern Donbass region, which had declared independence after a 2014 coup in Kiev but have not been recognized by anyone, including Russia. Ukraine promised such autonomy in the Minsk Agreement mediated by France and Germany, but has yet to follow through.

As the call was ongoing, however, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called “absolutely false” reports that Biden was pressuring Zelensky to “surrender territory to Russia.”

Meanwhile, the Kerch Strait was reportedly closed to civilian traffic as the Russian coast guard was monitoring a Ukrainian naval vessel that approached within 18 nautical miles. The ship eventually changed course, but continued to ignore Russian warnings. 

The strait separates the mainland from Crimea, which seceded from Ukraine and voted to rejoin Russia in 2014. Kiev and Washington have refused to recognize the reabsorption, and maintain that Russia “invaded” and “occupied” Ukrainian territory.

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