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U.S. Vice President ‘Dictates Policy To Ukraine’

Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

"We know that Mr. [U.S. Vice President Joe] Biden calls Ukraine over the phone like he calls home, several times a week, and gives instructions.”

...file this one under fantasy

A search of the website shows that Biden has spoken by phone with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman twice over the past four months.

Biden spoke by phone with Hroysman’s predecessor, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, twice in 2016.

A similar search shows Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko nine times in 2016.

That makes for 13 phone calls between Biden and Ukraine’s president and prime ministers over the course of 2016 -- not even twice a month and far from “several times a week,” as Zakharova claims.

Even so, is Biden using even that limited time during these transatlantic chats to pass on American diktat to Ukraine, as Zakharova contends?

Most, if not all, the phone calls between Biden and Ukraine’s top leaders focus on the situation in eastern Ukraine where forces loyal to Kyiv have been fighting Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, leaving more than 9,500 dead, according to UN estimates.

For example, an upsurge in fighting was the main topic when Biden last spoke by phone with Poroshenko on August 19.

Policy, however, does come up as well. In February, Biden commended Poroshenko on the passage of anticorruption legislation sought by the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

He also praised Poroshenko for his decision to replace Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin, who critics both at home and abroad agreed was dragging his feet, if budging them at all, on investigating corruption allegations among Ukraine’s elite.

But whether that can be interpreted as “giving instructions,” as Zakharova characterizes it, is debatable to say the least.

TASS, which quoted Zakharova, says Biden himself has boasted of his ability to pull strings in Kyiv, quoting the vice president’s own words in an article in the Atlantic published on August 22, entitled, The Biden Doctrine.

In it, Biden recounts that Washington was not willing to pony up $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine if Shokin was not dismissed.

“‘Petro, you’re not getting your billion dollars,’ Biden recalled telling him. ‘It’s OK, you can keep the [prosecutor] general. Just understand—we’re not paying if you do.’”

If anything, Biden may have been playing a bit of hardball with Poroshenko, but to say he was dictating policy appears to be a serious case of Kremlin spin.