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U.S., Ukraine to strengthen strategic partnership

 WASHINGTON:The United States will continue to urge Russia to end its illegal occupation of Ukraine's Crimea and looks to strengthen bonds between the United States and Ukraine, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Andrii Taran at the Pentagon today.

The Ukrainian delegation is in Washington to discuss the larger aspects of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.

Ukraine is in conflict with Russia, which occupied and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Russia had agreed to respect the sovereignty of all nations in Europe.

"Our support for Ukraine sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations is unwavering," Austin said at the beginning of the meeting. "We again call on Russia to end the 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."



 The United States wants to strengthen the strategic defense partnership with Ukraine. To that end, Austin signed a strategic defense framework agreement with Taran. The document is meant to enhance cooperation between the two nations and "advances shared priorities by ensuring that our bilateral security cooperation continues to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression," Austin said.

The agreement also looks at defense industry reforms in support of Ukraine's NATO membership aspirations, and deepening cooperation in such areas of Black Sea security, cyber defense, and intelligence sharing.

The two men will also sign a research, development, test and evaluation agreement. This will provide a framework for bilateral armaments and military technical cooperative projects.

Since the Russia aggression, the United States has provided Ukraine with more than $2.5 billion in aid. This year, that includes Javelin missiles.

Austin said the United States remains committed to Ukraine, and he thanked the nation for its help in Afghanistan and in the evacuation effort. Austin told Ukraine's president that he looks forward to a more secure, prosperous, democratic and free Ukraine.

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