President Joe Biden Continues Hard Line Against Russia, Offers Ukraine 'Unwavering Support'

President Joe Biden on Friday offered "unwavering support" to Ukraine and reiterated his strong stance against Russian aggression amid reports of Russian actions near the Ukrainian border.

After the president's Friday call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the White House said in a statement that Biden "affirmed the United States' unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia's ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea."

The statement added, "He emphasized his administration's commitment to revitalize our strategic partnership in support of President Zelenskiy's plan to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our shared democratic values that delivers justice, security and prosperity to the people of Ukraine."

Before the presidents' call, the first since Biden took office, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andrii Taran and "reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations," according to a Defense Department statement.

"He condemned recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine and offered condolences to Minister Taran on the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers on March 26," the statement added.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks about the March jobs report on April 2. Drew Angerer/Getty

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The United States and Ukraine say Russia is escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. Russia denies having a military presence there.

The Pentagon this week accused Russia of violating a 2020 cease-fire, including a March 26 clash that killed four Ukrainian soldiers. Ukraine's military blamed a Russian mortar attack.

Zelenskiy said in a tweet after the call that Ukraine and the United States "stand shoulder to shoulder when it comes to preservation of our democracies." He called the partnership with Americans "crucial" for Ukrainians.

Biden also stressed his commitment to revitalizing the two countries' strategic partnership and supporting efforts by Zelenskiy to fight corruption and promote democratic reforms, the White House said.

President Donald Trump had emphasized a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and resisted calls to press Russia over its interference in the United States and other countries, including Ukraine. Biden has publicly rebuked Putin since taking office, including saying last month he regarded Putin as a "killer."

Russia recalled its ambassador to the United States after that, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov kept up Russia's complaints about Biden's comments this week, saying Russia's relations with the United States and its allies have "hit the bottom."

Zelenskiy and Biden also discussed cooperation in strengthening democracy in Eastern Europe and containing the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said.