U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during a meeting in Kyiv.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pose for a picture during a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine May 6, 2021.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged U.S. support Thursday for Ukraine’s sovereignty and efforts to strengthen democracy in the country as he visited for talks with top officials.

“I’m here for really a very simple reason, which is to, on behalf of President [Joe] Biden, reaffirm strongly our commitment to the partnership between our countries, our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, our commitment to work with you as you continue to strengthen your own democracy, building institutions, advancing reforms, combating corruption,” Blinken said.

The top U.S. diplomat spoke alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who called the United States “Ukraine’s ally number one in security and defense.”

Blinken’s visit follows a Russian military buildup along the border with Ukraine, which included tens of thousands of troops and sparked concern among many Western governments.  Russia said the forces were taking part in military exercises and as of late April were returning to their bases.

In addition to Kuleba, Blinken was also holding talks Thursday with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Blinken was expected to reiterate that the United States will not recognize Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, and to call for its return to Ukraine.  

He will also call on Russia to uphold its commitments under the Minsk agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since 2014, Russia has been supporting pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Donbas. 

The State Department said Blinken will also encourage institutional reforms in Ukraine, which the State Department called "key to securing Ukraine's democratic institutions, economic prosperity, and Euro-Atlantic future."  

Blinken will likely underscore the importance of U.S. economic support for Ukraine.     

"Since 2014, the United States has provided Ukraine more than $4.6 billion in total assistance, including security and non-security assistance," according to the State Department.