Jul 21, 2021 2 mins, 5 secs

WASHINGTON — The White House said Wednesday it invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to meet President Joe Biden next month, but the visit will come later than Kyiv had hoped, reinforcing a perception in Ukraine that a country pressured by the last U.S.

Administration officials, meanwhile, denied accusations that they had warned Ukraine against public criticism of Biden's handling of a controversial Russian gas pipeline or postponed any meeting between the leaders.

But Biden stunned Ukraine this May when his administration chose to waive sanctions against the company and CEO overseeing the construction of a Russian gas pipeline to Europe, a project vehemently opposed by Ukraine and its Eastern European neighbors.

The administration said the move would allow time to work out a compromise agreement with Germany, which has supported the pipeline.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration and Germany announced a deal aimed at softening the blow of the pipeline that will bypass Ukraine, but the agreement immediately came under fierce criticism in Kyiv and elsewhere.

Opponents of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, including Ukraine and Poland, blasted the deal on Wednesday, saying it would leave Kyiv vulnerable to Russian coercion.

Biden administration officials defended the agreement and their approach to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, denying accusations they had tried to pressure Kyiv to refrain from publicly criticizing the deal or lobbying against it in Congress.

officials have said they wanted to avoid disrupting relations with a key ally, Germany, which has supported the pipeline.

The Biden administration said Wednesday the deal with Germany would help alleviate the effect of the Nord Stream pipeline on Ukraine and would include investments in "green energy" in Ukraine.

According to Herbst and two congressional aides with direct knowledge of the matter, administration officials in recent days warned Ukraine not to publicly bash the U.S.-German deal and to avoid arguing against the agreement in meetings with members of Congress.

Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the administration had never asked Ukraine to stay silent on Nord Stream 2.

deal with Germany, Nuland said Berlin has committed to taking action if Russia tried "to use energy as a weapon or commit further aggressive acts against Ukraine.".

and Germany will support an extension of the existing $3 billion annual gas transit agreement between Russia and Ukraine beyond 2024, Nuland said.

Jeanne Shaheen, who had called on the Biden administration to take action to prevent the completion of the pipeline, said she was not convinced the U.S.-German agreement would be effective

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