Ukraine's Zelensky "confused," "disappointed" by Biden pipeline move - Axios

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he learned through the press — not any direct heads-up — that President Biden had decided to stop trying to block a Russian pipeline that Ukraine sees as a dire national security threat.

Driving the news: Zelensky used an hourlong Zoom interview with Axios on Friday to beseech Biden to meet with him face to face before a June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — offering to join him "at any moment and at any spot on the planet."

Why it matters: Russian gas currently flows through Ukraine en route to Europe. Nord Stream 2, a Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, would allow Russia to circumvent and isolate Kyiv, Ukraine's capital. Zelensky said the U.S. is the only power capable of stopping Russia.

What they're saying: "The State Department has regularly engaged with Ukrainian officials regarding Nord Stream 2. Prior to the transmission of the most recent report to Congress, the State Department notified the Ukrainian ambassador in Washington and senior officials in Kyiv, including the president’s chief of staff, of the contents of the report," a White House spokesperson told Axios. 

Where things stand: Putin announced Friday the first of two lines is complete and said energy giant Gazprom is "ready to start filling Nord Stream 2 with gas."

Behind the scenes: Zelensky says Biden had offered him "direct signals" that the U.S. was prepared to block the pipeline. Then came the news that Biden would be waiving the sanctions.

Zelensky says he is "positive" Biden could still stop the pipeline. "I still believe, after all, that Biden is a Jordan in politics," he said.

The White House says it proposed the Putin summit to seek a "stable and predictable" relationship with Putin.

Zelensky has not enjoyed stability or predictability from Moscow since taking office in 2019. He thinks Russia's recent military build-up on the borders was an attempt to inflict "psychological pressure" but noted that the threat still looms.

What’s next: A source familar with the U.S. interactions said they had told the Ukrainian side several days ago they would hold a call this week, as early as Monday. It could be a contentious conversation.

Go deeper: Full interview transcript.

Editor’s note: Updates with comment from administration source about dashed plans to invite Zelensky to Washington.

https://www.axios.com/zelensky-biden-ukraine-russia-nord-stream-pipeline-fe50756b-6b82-43f0-b390-734ea3e95de0.html