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."
- The embattled leader spoke of Putin's psychological pressure campaign; his own anger-turned-disappointment at the U.S.; and his hope that Biden, whom he compares to basketball great Michael Jordan, can still outmaneuver Russia and rescue Ukraine.
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.
- "This is a weapon, a real weapon ... in the hands of the Russian Federation," he said. "It is not very understandable ... that the bullets to this weapon can possibly be provided by such a great country as the United States."
- Putin is already wielding his additional leverage over Ukraine. The Russian president said on Friday that Ukraine must show good will if it still wants Russian gas to pass through the country.
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...