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Biden and Zelenskyy sign security deal as Ukraine's leader questions how long the unity will last

FASANO, Italy (AP) — President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday signed a long-term agreement designed to bolster Ukraine's defenses against Russia's invasion.
President Joe Biden, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands after signing a bilateral security agreement on the sidelines of the G7, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Savelletri, Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

FASANO, Italy (AP) — President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday signed a long-term agreement designed to bolster Ukraine's defenses against Russia's invasion.

Zelensky thanked Biden for the pact but said “the question has to be for how long the unity will last," given upcoming U.S. elections and the prospect of Republican Donald Trump returning to the White House.

Biden tried to reassure Zelenskyy. "They'll have what they need,” Biden said, referring to Ukraine.

Both men spoke on the sidelines of the annual Group of Seven summit, held this week in southern Italy.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy (AP) — President Joe Biden and top global allies took action on dual fronts Thursday to reinforce their solidarity with Ukraine as it fights off Russia's invasion, with Group of Seven leaders clearing the way for a $50 billion loan package for Kyiv as he signed a security agreement with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The money and the security support, both being announced during the annual G7 summit, held this year in southern Italy, were intended to show Russian President Vladimir Putin that the world's leading industrialized democracies were standing behind Ukraine.

Biden said the actions, combined with a new sanctions against Russia, “collectively show Putin he cannot wait us out. He cannot divide us.”

But the gathering had the feel of leaders racing against a clock as several member countries hold elections this year that could result in new and more conservative leadership less focused on backing Ukraine. Topping that list are U.S. elections in November that could see the return of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency.

Trump has been skeptical of providing additional military aid to Ukraine, at one point criticizing the “endless flow of American treasure.” He more recently has expressed openness to lending money instead and has said Ukraine's independence is important to the United States.

The U.S. and European countries have agreed to keep sanctioned Russian assets locked up until Moscow pays reparations for its invasion of Ukraine, a senior U.S. official said. That clears the way for leaders to announce the $50 billion loan package for Ukraine.

The highly anticipated agreement will leverage interest and income from more than $260 billion in frozen Russian assets, largely held in Europe, to secure a $50 billion loan from the U.S. and additional loans from other partners. Ukraine will receive the first payments sometime this year, but it will need time to use all the money, the official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the agreement, which will be included in the G7 leaders' communique on Friday.

Ukraine will be able to spend the money in several areas, including for military, economic, humanitarian and reconstruction needs, the official said.

The leaders’ statement on Friday will also leave the door open to confiscating the Russian assets entirely, for which the allies have yet to secure the political will, largely citing legal and financial stability concerns.

Biden met later Thursday with Ukraine's Zelenskyy, their second meeting in as many weeks, to discuss the new security agreement as the international group of wealthy democracies has been looking for new ways to bolster Ukraine's defenses against Russia.

The agreement on how to use the frozen Russian assets to benefit Ukraine comes several months after the White House broke through a logjam in Congress that stalled approval of some $60 billion in U.S. aid for Ukraine. The delay gave Russia time to make up ground on the battlefield. Biden publicly apologized to Zelenskyy for the holdup when they met last week in France.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, described the security pact as a “real marker” of the U.S. commitment to Ukraine, “not just for this month and this year, but for the many years ahead.”

Zelenskyy, on social media, said the document is “unprecedented, as it should be for leaders who support Ukraine.”

Sullivan said the agreement would not commit U.S. troops directly to Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion. That is a red line drawn by Biden, who does not want to have the U.S. pulled into a direct conflict with nuclear-armed Moscow.

The security pact, which would remain in effect for 10 years, does not offer Ukraine any new money but includes a commitment by the U.S. to work with Congress on a source of sustainable funding for the future. Text of the agreement released by the White House also describes how the U.S. will coordinate with Ukraine and other U.S. allies and partners to make sure Ukraine has the military, intelligence and other means necessary to defend itself and deter Russian aggression.

The U.S. and Ukraine would also consult “at the highest levels” in the event of a future armed attack by Russia against Ukraine. Either side may terminate the agreement in writing with six months’ notice, which means a future U.S. president, including Trump if elected in November, could cancel the arrangement.

Scores of countries and organizations are set to meet over the weekend in Switzerland to discuss peace for Ukraine. Biden is not scheduled to attend the summit, and that has disappointed Zelenskyy. Vice President Kamala Harris will represent the U.S. instead while the Democratic president attends a campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles.

Zelenskyy recently said the Swiss summit needs Biden’s participation because other leaders value the U.S. viewpoint. He said Biden’s absence “will be only an applaud to Putin, a personal applaud to Putin.”

It wasn’t just Ukraine that occupied the allies’ attention.

Biden announced that Italy was joining a G7 initiative to provide development assistance to Africa, which is meant as a bulwark against growing Chinese influence on the continent. Biden said $60 billion mobilized by the U.S. and the G7 is proof “democracies can deliver,” as the U.S. and its allies warn that China’s investments come attached with geopolitical and economic demands.

The annual summit opened Thursday in Italy's picturesque Puglia region in the south, with leaders meeting in private as they discussed the war in Gaza, support for Ukraine and other mutual concerns.

The informal grouping of industrialized democracies — the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, German, Italy and Japan, plus European governing bodies — meets annually. Italy holds the rotating presidency this year, and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is hosting her counterparts.

The trip is Biden’s second outside the U.S. in as many weeks; he was in France last week for a state visit and ceremonies commemorating the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War II.


Superville reported from Fasano, Italy. Associated Press writers Chris Megerian and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Colleen Long And Darlene Superville, The Associated Press

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