WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ukraine this week, making his first trip to the country at the heart of President Donald Trump's impeachment.
As the Senate weighs options for a trial, Pompeo will depart Thursday on a five-nation tour of Europe and Central Asia. Ukraine will be the first stop on the trip, the State Department said Monday.
Trump's impeachment on charges of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress hinges on his policy toward Ukraine. Witnesses told House investigators that Trump wanted Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son in return for releasing critical military aid to Ukraine.
One of those witnesses, William Taylor, is the current acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine although he will leave Kyiv shortly before Pompeo's arrival in the capital. Pompeo appointed Taylor to the post over the summer to take over from Marie Yovanovitch, whose tour was abruptly cut short in May after Trump's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani made unsubstantiated allegations against her. Taylor's position was temporary and time-limited by law.
In Kyiv, Pompeo will meet with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose July 25 phone call with Trump triggered the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment. In that call, Trump disparaged Yovanovitch and asked Zelenskiy for “a favor,” suggesting he wanted Ukrainian authorities to investigate Biden's son, Hunter Biden, for corruption. Trump has said the call was “perfect” and has denied doing anything wrong.
In his meetings, Pompeo will “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” as the country continues to battle Russia-backed separatists in the east, the State Department said in a statement. Pompeo also will honor Ukrainians who have died in the conflict, which intensified after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014, in a move condemned and rejected by most of the international community.
In addition, Pompeo plans to meet Ukrainian religious, civic and business leaders for talks on human rights, investment and economic and political reform, the department said.
From Ukraine, Pompeo will travel on to Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cyprus before returning home.