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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Opening Remarks at Pentagon Meeting

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us.

President Zelenskyy and Minister Taran, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon. As you know, we've been extremely busy and focused on Afghanistan. We're grateful for Ukraine's assistance with evacuation operations there, and I'm glad that we have -- we have this opportunity to reaffirm our wider strategic partnership.

First and foremost, I want to wish you a happy 30th Independence Day. For three decades, we've recognized Ukraine's independence, and our bonds have never been stronger. And today, our support for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations is unwavering.

We again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea and to stop perpetuating the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and we will continue to stand with you in the face of this Russian aggression.

Now, this department is committed to strengthening our strategic defense partnership. The U.S.-Ukraine strategic defense framework that Minister Taran and I will sign today enhances our cooperation and advances our shared priorities, such as ensuring that our bilateral security cooperation continues to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression and implementing defense and defense industry reforms in support of Ukraine's NATO membership aspirations and deepening our cooperation in such areas as Black Sea security, cyber defense and intel sharing.

The minister and I will also sign a research, development, test and evaluation agreement providing a framework to -- to pursue bilateral armaments and military technical cooperation through cooperative projects. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $2.5 billion to support Ukraine's forces so that they can preserve their country's territorial integrity, secure its borders and improve its interoperability with NATO.

As you know, sir, President Biden has approved a new $60 million security assistant pack -- assistance package, including Javelin anti-armor systems and assistance and more to enable Ukraine to better defend itself against Russian aggression.

The United States and our allies are committed to supporting Ukraine's right to decide its own future foreign policy, free from outside interference. President Zelenskyy and Minister Taran, you can count on our -- our continued support in the face of Russian aggression to help Ukraine realize its Euro-Atlantic aspirations in support of a more secure, prosperous and democratic and free Ukraine.

Mr. President, thank you again for being here, and I look forward to our discussions today.


(THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, so much.

First of all, I would like you to accept my condolences of the tragic death of the American military in Afghanistan. We appreciate the efforts, especially that we know and we experience in our own military because soldiers who are helping your soldiers in the rescue operations and the enduring effort. They were serving the most important goal of securing and saving human lives, and they did that, and we count the human lives thus saved in the hundreds and thousands.

Yesterday -- yesterday, immediately on our arrival at the airport at the military base, we lowered both flags, the U.S. and the Ukrainian, in loving memory of these allies which perished in Kabul in the tragic attacks. We can appreciate your loss, especially considering that for the eighth year in a row, we are losing lives of our soldiers in the eastern Ukraine in the war with Russia. We are fighting for our freedom, our independence, our sovereignty. And this is the sacrifice that has to be made in the east of Ukraine with Ukrainian Peninsula, with Crimea. And we are happy to hold conference in support of strategic partners, the U.S.

On the 24th of August indeed we celebrated the 30th anniversary of our regained independence (inaudible) secured independence.

Our nation now of people (inaudible) through its history at some critical points the independence and freedom will be challenged.

And this is what now is happening in the east of Ukraine. Yes.

So thank you Minister and your government for your enduring position in the situation and we recognize that the part (inaudible) and the part to be blamed for this war, this is an attempt an actual occupation of Ukrainian territory by the Russian Federation.

And thank you using the opportunity for the -- our presentation on the United States that you Crimean platform advance indicated to the 30th anniversary of our independence. A high level official from the United States intended and we are very grateful.

And thank you, Minister, for mentioning and I believe this is true that the U.S. assistance -- military assistance is getting stronger.

And you provide precious support for rehabilitation of our combatants, the people who come from the war wounded and injured.

And the two agreements you are going to sign with Minister Taran here, who I consider another very important step towards strengthening our cooperation and progress in such relations.

It is difficult now for me to say whether it is truly historic (inaudible) or turning point or whether it will promote both countries to a different level of cooperation.

But this is what I wish for and this is what I hope for.

And that's what I hope to achieve in our talks with you Minister and with high-level representatives of the Pentagon here, and tomorrow with President Biden in our conversation.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thank you very much.