Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko was left out of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Kiev on Wednesday, which included the country’s foreign minister and Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman, according to Ukrainian authorities cited by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, was left out of the United States. The U.S. State Department said he would be unable to attend the meeting of world leaders in New York City for security reasons.

Ukraine’s President, Left Out of U.S.

KYIV—When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky entered office three years ago, he promised to talk with Moscow to settle his country’s years-long conflict in the east.

Russia has now collected tens of thousands of soldiers surrounding Ukraine and is in negotiations with the United States regarding the country’s future without Mr. Zelensky.

Ukraine was buffeted by internal turmoil Monday, firmly outside of international discussions, as pro-Western former President Petro Poroshenko returned to Kyiv from abroad to face allegations of treason and funding terrorism. Mr. Poroshenko denies wrongdoing and claims that Mr. Zelensky is pursuing him as part of a political vendetta, which he rejects.

Mr. Zelensky’s international marginalization is symbolic of Ukraine’s greater isolation. According to current and past advisors, Russia has said that working with Mr. Zelensky is pointless since he refuses to commit Ukraine to any sort of Russian authority as a condition of peace. As a consequence, they claim, Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to coerce the US into withdrawing its backing for Kyiv and making a formal guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO.

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On Saturday, Ukrainian reservists exercised in a Kyiv industrial neighborhood.

courtesy of Getty Images/Brendan Hoffman

The US has rejected that demand, but has also ignored Mr. Zelensky’s pleas for NATO to follow through on a 14-year-old promise to allow Ukraine to join. Mr. Zelensky wants Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, but both organizations have said that their doors are closed for the time being. The US and its allies claim to be helping and counseling Ukraine in their efforts to urge Russia to withdraw its armed forces.

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) led a bipartisan delegation of US senators to Ukraine on Monday to meet with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky to discuss the country’s security situation and how the US can best assist Kyiv. Mr. Zelensky was also slated to speak with the legislators.

“It is crucial to demonstrate bipartisan US support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who was part of the group, on Twitter.

Mr. Zelensky, who has been mostly ignored in negotiations, has called for a meeting with European countries or with Mr. Putin and President Biden in the last week. They’ve mainly gone unanswered.

Thousands of Mr. Poroshenko’s supporters gathered at an airport in Kyiv on Monday to meet the former president, who was heading to a court that will decide whether he should be detained in jail awaiting investigation and prosecution. For his alleged participation in a scheme to acquire coal from Russian-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine through rebels, he faces accusations of treason and supporting terrorism.

In an interview, Mr. Poroshenko claimed that Ukraine under Mr. Zelensky was reverting to the authoritarian rule established by ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, who imprisoned his chief opponent before fleeing to Russia during large street demonstrations in 2014.

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Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrived in Kyiv on Monday for a court hearing on treason allegations.

VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO/RE

Mr. Zelensky, according to Mr. Poroshenko, was attempting to divert attention away from his own faults. Mr. Poroshenko said, “He doesn’t know what to deal with Russian aggression.”

Mr. Zelensky claims that his government is attempting to fight tycoons like Mr. Poroshenko’s political and economic clout.

The timing of the court hearing, according to critics, including Western capitals and Mr. Poroshenko’s supporters, could not be worse, given Russia’s military maneuvers, and is emblematic of the domestic concerns that have hampered this country’s 30-year efforts to establish, develop, and defend itself.

When accusations against former President Poroshenko were published last year, the US Embassy in Kyiv remarked on Twitter, “The United States is carefully monitoring the case against former President Poroshenko.” “It’s critical that the process and conclusion be guided by the rule of law rather than politics.”

Mr. Putin had voiced optimism that ties would improve under Mr. Zelensky, a Russian-speaking former comedian with no political experience but a popular troupe in Russia.

According to Mr. Zelensky’s present and past aides, Mr. Zelensky’s president seems to have persuaded Mr. Putin that the only way to accomplish his long-term aim of governing Ukraine is to invade or threaten war to break the will of Kyiv’s Western supporters.

According to a source close to Mr. Zelensky’s inner circle, Mr. Zelensky has experienced a personal shift since becoming president.

Former Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk remarked, “Any reasonable and patriotic Ukrainian president would end up like this.”

After years of squabbling with his predecessor before entirely breaking ties, Russian officials greeted Mr. Zelensky’s overwhelming win against Mr. Poroshenko with cautious hope.

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On Monday, supporters of Petro Poroshenko gathered outside a courtroom in Kyiv.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Dolzhenko

Despite this, Mr. Putin did not call Mr. Zelensky, who instead contacted the Kremlin directly. Mr. Putin was making a point, according to analysts, by saying Mr. Zelensky would have to show he could offer Mr. Putin what he wanted.

Their governments quickly agreed to a prisoner exchange, which included the release of a well-known Ukrainian film director and sailors held during Mr. Poroshenko’s administration. Mr. Zelensky freed a rebel who was apprehended in a daring special-forces raid and accused of being involved in the downing of a Malaysian passenger flight.

Mr. Zelensky hoped to rekindle discussions over the situation in the east, which was sparked by Russia’s creation of two self-declared separatist statelets in the region. Since 2014, 14,000 people have died as a result of fighting.

His government, however, said that Russia insisted on implementing a peace agreement in a fashion that would give its proxies the authority to veto Ukraine’s internal and international policy. Mr. Zelensky, under pressure from Kyiv’s opposition, warned at an international forum at the end of 2019 that Russia must remove its soldiers before any election in area not under Kyiv’s authority. If no improvement was seen after a year, he stated he would seek “plan B.”

After a year of little progress, Mr. Zelensky decided to pursue tighter connections with NATO. Ukraine’s role as a partner was elevated as a result of the partnership. Turkey, a NATO member, supplied weaponized drones to Ukraine. Mr. Putin said that the United States was erecting a “anti-Russia” wall on his border.


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Mr. Zagorodnyuk, the former defense minister, said, “Russia knew Ukraine was coming closer and closer to NATO, even if there is no imminent likelihood of joining.”

At the same time, Ukrainian officials launched an investigation into a pro-Russian lawmaker who is a close personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They took away Viktor Medvedchuk’s television stations and placed him under house arrest while authorities looked into allegations of funding separatists. He is adamant in his denial of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Zelensky started by rebutting Mr. Putin’s repeated claims that Russia and Ukraine had a common past.

Mr. Zelensky came to resemble Mr. Poroshenko in the eyes of the Kremlin, according to Oleksandr Danylyuk, a former secretary of Ukraine’s national security council.

“That was the end for the Russians,” he claimed.

Mr. Putin amassed tens of thousands of soldiers around Ukraine last spring, before pulling back some of them when Mr. Biden agreed to a meeting.

Mr. Zelensky had anticipated for strong backing from Vice President Joe Biden’s administration. But, in order to concentrate on China, Mr. Biden’s administration focused on normalizing ties with Russia. The United States has backed down from its attempts to prevent a Russian gas pipeline to Germany, which Ukrainian authorities believe would cut them off from lucrative gas-transit flows and give Russia more room to conduct military activities.

Late last year, when Mr. Putin sent soldiers back into Ukraine’s borders, the US and its allies swiftly said that they had no commitment to deploy troops to protect Ukraine since it is a NATO partner but not a member.

—This article was co-written by Vivian Salama.

James Marson can be reached at [email protected]

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