President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy spoke over the phone on Thursday afternoon as tens of thousands of Russian troops remained on Ukraine’s border and as allies, including the United States, prepared their own forces in case of an invasion.
On the call, Biden “reaffirmed the readiness” of the U.S. and its allies to respond if Russia invades Ukraine and said the U.S. was considering more economic assistance to the country outside of the $650 million in military aid provided over the last year.
Ukraine’s president released a statement and photo on Twitter after the meeting, thanking Biden.
“Had a long phone conversation with POTUS,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “Discussed recent diplomatic efforts on de-escalation and agreed on joint actions for the future. Thanked President Joe Biden for the ongoing military assistance. Possibilities for financial support to Ukraine were also discussed.”
Ukraine has criticized the U.S. decision to withdraw diplomats’ families from the capital of Kyiv and advise other Americans to leave the country as well.
The situation remains tense — with the possibility of an invasion potentially “imminent,” according to the White House — but it’s still unclear what Russia will choose to do.
On Wednesday, the top U.S. official in Russia delivered a written response to Russia’s security demands, although it did not include any concessions to some of Russia’s foremost priorities, including a guarantee that Ukraine won’t be allowed to join NATO in the future.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the document offered Russia a path forward centered on diplomacy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier that the response from the U.S. — and a similar one from NATO — left “little ground for optimism.” But he added that “there always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was circumspect when asked whether the Biden administration saw a sliver of hope in that the Russians said they would keep communications open even as they said that they lacked optimism..
“We don’t know if the Russians are playing games on diplomacy. We hope not,” Psaki said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.