Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Ukrainian leaders in the capital city of Kyiv to strengthen ties between the nations and look for ways to implement the Strategic Defense Framework that was signed at the end of August.
Austin assured Defense Minister Andriy Taran that U.S. support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty is unwavering. Later in the day, Austin is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The strategic defense framework provides the roadmap for both countries to follow to strengthen security and defense cooperation.
Austin arrived in a country at war. As part of his arrival ceremony, he placed roses at the Memorial to Fallen Warriors on the grounds of the Defense Ministry. Ukraine has lost 14,000 citizens in the conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine. There are books of the dead in the memorial, and they list those killed each day.
"The United States calls on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, to stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine, to end its destabilizing activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine's border, and to halt its persistent cyberattacks and other malign activities against the United States and our allies and partners," Austin said in a news conference after his meeting.
Austin also mentioned the sacrifices made by Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, saying "I want to commend Ukraine's brave men and women in uniform, who continue to stand up to defend our shared values and our core democratic principles."
The secretary — who arrived in Kyiv from Tbilisi, Georgia — said he wants to see regional cooperation among the United States' Black Sea allies and partners to deter Russia. "In support of these efforts, the United States will continue to provide assistance to enhance the maritime capacities of not only Ukraine, but also Georgia, Romania and Bulgaria. We have long understood the importance of cooperation and unity among our allies and partners to deter Russian aggression."
The strategic defense framework will also help Ukraine qualify for NATO membership. During the NATO Summit in Brussels in June, alliance leaders reaffirmed their support for Ukraine's right to decide its own future free from the outside interference of Russia. "To that end, we encourage the government of Ukraine to remain committed to the deep and comprehensive reforms needed to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations," Austin said. "That means continuing to enhance civilian control of the military, align defense-industry institutions with global best practices, and to introduce human resources management reforms."