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America 'Unwavering' in Support for Ukraine, Austin Says

During a meeting in the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that American support for Ukraine's self-defense, sovereignty and territorial integrity is "unwavering."

The foreign minister met with Austin as Russia moved forces into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. More than 150,000 Russian troops almost surround Ukraine.

Two men walk up steps. There is an honor guard on both sides of the steps.
Defense Partners
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba for a meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2022.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 220222-D-BN624-0026

Austin told Kuleba that Russia's latest invasion not only threatens Ukraine but the peace, security and prosperity of the Trans-Atlantic community. The Russian occupation of the Donbas region "violates international law, and Russia's own international commitments, and it directly undermines Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity," the secretary said.

The United States and its allies and partners are responding to President Vladimir Putin's orders, he said.

Russia first moved into Ukraine in 2014, occupying Crimea and fomenting violence in the Donbas region. Since then, the United States has committed more than $2.7 billion in assistance to Ukraine including $650 million in 2021 alone.

Two mean walk along a hallway with a photographic display.
Leaders Meet
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba for a meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2022.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 220222-D-BN624-0042

The secretary commended Ukraine for its restraint in the face of Russia's invasion. "I … commend you for Ukraine's measured response, and for continuing your nation's call for a peaceful diplomatic solution, in the face of Russia's aggression, provocations and false accusations," he said. "We will continue to work closely with you and remain in lockstep with our allies and partners in trying to find a way to avoid further conflict. Mr. Putin can still avoid a full-blown tragic war of choice."

Kuleba told Austin that since his country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States has been Ukraine's security partner number one. He thanked the secretary for the defensive weapons and the training the Ukrainian military has received from the United States and from American service members.

Two men converse across a table from. Small flags are in the center of the table.
Pentagon Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba for a meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2022.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 220222-D-BN624-0099

"I'm on a diplomatic mission here," the foreign minister said. "But these days diplomacy means also defense. We are not seeking a war. We want to find solutions through diplomacy. But if the war is imposed on us by President Putin, we will be defending ourselves and we will be more than grateful for all the assistance that you can provide to us."

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