Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the United States has been a “co-sponsor of this story of success” in helping his country fight for freedom against Russian aggression, as he sat with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Tuesday.
“We’re really fighting for freedom and democracy,” Petro Poroshenko says.
Trump and national security adviser H.R. McMaster had a “drop-in” of a White House late morning meeting between Poroshenko and Vice President Mike Pence.
Ahead of the meeting, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against 38 individuals and organizations that U.S. authorities determined had helped Russia in its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
“We’re really fighting for freedom and democracy,” Poroshenko said in front of reporters in the Oval Office after the private meeting, according to the press pool report.
The Ukrainian leader talked about U.S. support for security and defense of his country of 45 million people.
“I’m absolutely confident that today is a story of success and I’m proud to have you, Mr. President, and the United States as the co-sponsor of this story of success,” he said.
Critics have accused Trump of being overly sympathetic with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and slow to denounce the invasion. Trump has said he wants Russia’s help in combatting the Islamic State, a Sunni terrorist group.
Trump spoke broadly during his comments with Poroshenko.
“It’s a great honor to be with President Poroshenko of the Ukraine, a place that we’ve all been very much involved in and we’ve been seeing it and everybody’s been reading about it,” Trump said. “And we’ve had some very, very good discussions. It’s going to continue throughout the day and I think a lot of progress has been made.”
The official White House readout of the meeting said Trump and Poroshenko “discussed support for the peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and President Poroshenko’s reform agenda and anti-corruption efforts.”
Regarding the new sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was more direct.
“These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements.”
In 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula, and working with pro-Russian separatist militias in Ukraine, annexed the region. The conflict began after Kremlin-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was rejected by the public. The conflict has led to more than 10,000 deaths, 23,000 wounded, and 1.8 million displaced.
During the public appearance, Trump also addressed the death of American Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea. Warmbier died Monday shortly after returning home in a coma. Trump seemed to lay some blame on the Obama administration for not resolving the matter sooner.
“It’s a disgrace what happened to Otto. It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen,” Trump said. “And frankly, if he were brought home sooner, I think the results would have been a lot different. He should have brought home that same day. The results would have been a lot different. What happened to Otto is a disgrace.”