What is known about Biden-Zelenskyi phone call

On the evening of December 9, the U.S. President Joe Biden had a phone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. It lasted 90 minutes. The conversation came against a backdrop of high tension following Biden’s video call with the Russian President Putin on Tuesday and talks with European allies. Here’s what we know about the conversation between the presidents of the U.S. and Ukraine. 

Commentary by Zelenskyi’s chief of staff. After President Biden’s phone call with President Zelenskyi ended, the head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak joined a television show on 1+1 channel by video link. Here’s what he said.

“First, Biden made very clear to Putin that there would be significant consequences if the Kremlin engages in escalation near the Ukrainian border and further invades Ukraine.”

“Biden made clear that the U.S. and European allies are ready to impose unprecedented sanctions.”  

“Second, Biden made very clear that the decision to join NATO is on the Ukrainian nation. Ukraine is an independent sovereign state. That is not a subject to discuss. It depends on Ukraine and NATO member states.”  

“Biden reiterated to Putin that no talks or decisions on Ukraine can be made without Ukraine.”

“Our President raised Nord Stream 2 and warnings that came in from our colleagues in the U.S., the UK and elsewhere about escalation on our border and attempts to destabilize (Ukraine) from inside,” Yermak said.

The U.S. plans to take a more active role in peace settlement in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff said.

“We can firmly say that the U.S. has decided to take an active role in the peace process.”

“How exactly depends on a number of factors. It may be a parallel track to the Normandy format. We have to respect what our partners – Germany and France did in the past eight years.”

“The U.S. has made a clear decision to take an active role in the process. They want peace to settle in Ukraine,” Yermak said.

Minsk agreements, prospects of Zelenskyi-Putin direct talks, President’s deputy chief of staff comments.Deputy Head of the Office of the President Andriy Sybiha also joined a television show on 1+1 channel by video link. He said implementation of the Minsk agreements and prospects of President Zelenskyi’s direct talks with President Putin were on the agenda of the Biden-Zelenskyi call.

“The Ukrainian side presented our vision of further steps to take on implementation of the Minsk agreements based on Ukraine’s national interest,” Sybiha said. He offered no further details.

“The presidents had a productive, specific and meaningful conversation,” Sybiha said.

“Military aspects of security and energy security were front and center on the agenda,” he added. 

President Zelenskyi is ready to hold direct talks with President Putin of Russia, Sybiha said. “Our Western partners and the U.S. in particular vow support for the talks,” he said.

As he delivered his annual address to the Parliament on December 1, President Zelenskyi said direct talks with Russia were inevitable. “We will not be able to end the war without direct talks with Russia. All our partners have acknowledged that,” Zelenskyi said.

The Kremlin backtracked on the offer.

“We are well aware of attempts to present Russia as a party to the conflict, which is not true. To end the war in Donbas, Ukrainians need to talk to Ukrainians. That’s a civil war prompted by notorious events of 2014,” Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.  

In Ukraine, prospects of direct talks with the aggressor started a heated debate.

Pro-democracy lawmakers of “European Solidarity” (Yevropeiska Solidarnist) and “Golos” (Voice) factions responded with a firm no. A leader of the “Opposition Platform – For Life” (OPZZh) faction Yuriy Boyko vowed support for the statement saying that his party “has long waited for the direct talks to happen to end the war.”

Earlier Boyko said that the Ukrainian government needs to talk to militants with Russia’s mediation. 

Commentary by President Zelenskyi. Following the phone call with President Biden that ended late on Thursday, President Zelenskyi posted on Twitter. “Finished a 1.5-hour conversation with @POTUS. The President of the United States informed me of the content of his negotiations with Putin. We also discussed possible formats for resolving the conflict in Donbas and touched upon the course of internal reforms in Ukraine,” the President said. He gave no further details.