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President Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call Monday that he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House this summer after returning from his trip to Europe, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Why it matters: In an hour-long interview with Axios on Friday, Zelensky urged 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."

Driving the news: The plea from Zelensky came after Biden waived sanctions on the corporate entity and CEO overseeing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will allow Russia to circumvent Ukraine and deliver natural gas directly to Germany.

  • Ukraine views the pipeline as a dire national security threat, one that Zelensky characterized during the interview as "a real weapon" in the hands of Russia.
  • The State Department itself has said Nord Stream 2 is a "Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and that of Ukraine," but Biden has signaled that he does not want to damage relations with Germany over a pipeline that will inevitably be completed anyway.

Behind the scenes: An administration source told Axios the White House was considering inviting Zelensky to Washington before Biden’s summit with Putin, but declined to move ahead with the meeting after Zelensky's decision to replace the management of state energy company Naftogaz.

  • That move led to concerns in the administration he was backsliding on anti-corruption efforts.

What they're saying: "I have come into this briefing room from the Oval Office where President Biden was on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine," Sullivan told reporters Monday.

  • "This is a call they had been planning to make in advance of President Biden going to Europe and meeting with President Putin," he continued.
  • "They had the opportunity to talk at some length about all of the issues in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and President Biden was able to tell President Zelensky that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and its aspirations as we go forward."

The big picture: Sullivan reiterated that Biden is meeting with Putin not in spite of the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, but because of them.

  • "There is never any substitute for leader-to-leader engagement, particularly for complex relationships, but with Putin, this is exponentially the case," Sullivan said, noting the Russian strongman's "highly personalized style of decision-making."
  • He added that it is hard to find a "better context" to hold a summit with Putin than after meetings with G7 leaders and the United States' European and NATO allies.

Go deeper: Zelensky "surprised" and "disappointed" by Biden pipeline move

Go deeper

Exclusive: Zelensky "surprised" and "disappointed" by Biden pipeline move

Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Sergei Supinsk/AFP via Getty Images

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."

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jun 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Blinken warns Putin ahead of upcoming U.S.-Russia summit

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Secretary of State Tony Blinken told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that President Biden is meeting with Vladimir Putin nine days from now "not in spite of" the cyberattacks that disrupted U.S. meat and gas supplies: "It's because of them."

Why it matters: Biden will tell Putin "directly and clearly what he can expect from the United States if aggressive, reckless actions toward us continue," Blinken told me in the grand Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

51 people unaccounted for after Miami-area condo collapse

A view of the crumpled portion of the 12-story condo tower on June 24 in Surfside, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A massive search and rescue operation is underway after a portion of a 12-story condo building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed early Thursday morning, according to AP.

The latest: 51 people who were "supposedly residing" in the building at the time of the collapse have not yet been accounted for, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman said on CNN Thursday morning.