Biden to hold first call with Ukrainian president amid Russian buildup

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President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak on Friday morning for the first time since Biden took office, amid reports of a Russian military buildup in eastern Ukraine that has alarmed U.S. and Ukrainian officials, according to two people with knowledge of the planned call.

The conversation follows at least three high-level calls between the U.S. and Ukraine this week, between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and their Ukrainian counterparts.

Ukrainian officials had been pushing for a call between Zelensky and Biden for weeks, including in a recent call between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and top Zelensky aid Andriy Yermak, according to one person familiar with their conversation.

Biden had been keeping Ukraine at arm’s length while quietly pushing for further reforms in a country he spent years getting to know as vice president, and one that is a critical front in the West’s efforts to contain Russia.

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