US President Joe Biden will lean on his Ukrainian counterpart to make progress on autonomy for Kiev's breakaway regions and indicate that NATO membership is off the table for at least a decade, AP has reported, citing sources.
The agency claims Biden plans to call President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, two days after his two-hour-long negotiations with Russia's Vladimir Putin. The American leader is expected to put pressure on Kiev so that it makes progress on delivering on its obligations under the Minsk Agreements, signed back in 2015.
Designed as a roadmap for reconciliation between the Ukrainian government and the Donetsk and Lugansk eastern regions, it's politically difficult for Kiev to implement due to the distaste of powerful nationalists at the compromises it demands. The Donbass rejected the outcome of the 2014 Maidan, which installed a pro-Western regime in Kiev and took up arms after the new authorities deployed military force to regain control.
Kiev claims the republics are being propped up by Russia, which has openly supported them, and has refused to deliver on its part of the peace plan, which includes a general amnesty and constitutional reform that would enshrine their greater autonomy.
Ukraine says it won't move forward before it fully controls the regions - which the Minsk Agreement says should be the last step of the reconciliation process. Russia denies that its support for Donetsk and Lugansk goes beyond humanitarian aid, but NATO states reject this assertion.
Moscow has concerns over Ukraine's aspiration to join the US-led military bloc, which it sees as an expansionist hostile organization that poses a threat to Russian national security. Putin has stated that the deployment of NATO missile systems on Ukrainian soil would be a red line for his country.
AP cited a senior official, who said Washington has told Ukraine that it won't become a NATO member for at least a decade. Publicly, the Biden administration has dismissed Russia's warning and insists Moscow has no say on whether Ukraine will join the organisation.
Some European members of the military bloc, including Germany, previously poured cold water on Kiev's desire to join, saying it wouldn't happen anytime soon. Post-2014 Ukraine has made the policy of seeking NATO accession part of its constitution.
The Putin-Biden conversation took place amid claims by Washington that Russia was amassing a military force of over 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine and could launch an invasion within weeks. Moscow has denied preparing such an attack and insists all its military maneuvers are defensive in nature. However, it pointed out that military action could start in Ukraine if Kiev choose to make a "provocation."