President Joe Biden held his first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Friday following reports that the Russian military is boosting its troop presence in eastern Ukraine, Politico reports.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Joint Chief Chairman Gen. Mark Milley all held calls with their counterparts in Ukraine this week.
Ukrainian officials have tried to get a call between Zelensky and Biden for weeks, including on a recent conversation between top Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
Biden has tried to keep a distance from Ukraine after Donald Trump pushed conspiracy theories about his and his son’s involvement in the country when Biden was vice president.
Ukrainian officials argued that a call between the two leaders would be an important show of support in response to Russia’s troop buildup.
The call comes after four Ukrainian soldiers were killed by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The killings and Russia’s buildup signals an end to a ceasefire agreement that was reached in June of 2020.
US European Command raised its alert status to its highest level in response to the renewed hostilities.
US warns of Russian aggression:
Gen. Glen VanHerck, who heads U.S. Northern Command, told Politico that recent actions by Russia, including incursions by bombers and submarines near allied airspace and in the Arctic, show that Russia is trying to reassert its influence on a global stage.”
Biden recently approved a $125 million aid package to Ukraine to buy new equipment and weaponry.
The US has provided more than $2 billion to the country for security assistance since 2014.
“We obviously don’t want to see any more violations of Ukrainian territory,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said. “We’ve been very clear about the threats that we see from Russia across domains ... we’re taking them very seriously.”