The White House on Saturday hailed what it said appeared to be an “extraordinary victory” for Ukraine in recapturing the city of Kherson from Russian occupiers.
“It does look as though the Ukrainians have just won an extraordinary victory where the one regional capital that Russia had seized in this war is now back under a Ukrainian flag — and that is quite a remarkable thing,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters as he accompanied President Joe Biden to the ASEAN summit in Cambodia.
Sullivan was speaking after Ukrainian troops entered the city, which was one of the lynchpins in Russia’s occupation of swathes of Ukraine.
Sullivan said that the Russian retreat would have “broader strategic implications,” including relieving the longer-term threat by Russia to other southern Ukrainian cities such as Odessa.
“It’s a big moment and it’s due to the incredible tenacity and skill of the Ukrainians, backed by the relentless and united support of the United States and our allies,” Sullivan said.
Asked about reports that the Biden administration has started to press President Volodymyr Zelensky to explore negotiations with Moscow, Sullivan said that Russia, not Ukraine, was the side that has to decide whether or not to go to the table.
“This whole notion, I think, in the Western press of ‘when’s Ukraine going to negotiate?’ misses the underlying fundamentals,” Sullivan said.
Russia, he added, continues to make “outlandish claims” about its self-declared annexations of Ukrainian lands, even as it retreats from Ukrainian counter-attacks.
“Ultimately, at a 30,000-foot level, Ukraine is the party of peace in this conflict and Russia is the party of war. Russia invaded Ukraine. If Russia chose to stop fighting in Ukraine and left, it would be the end of the war. If Ukraine chose to stop fighting and give up, it would be the end of Ukraine,” he said.
“In that context, our position remains the same as it has been and fundamentally is in close consultation and support of President Zelensky.”