Home News Blinken makes surprise visit to Ukraine, assures Zelensky of U.S. support

Blinken makes surprise visit to Ukraine, assures Zelensky of U.S. support

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on Tuesday and assured him that U.S. military aid comes at a “challenging time” in Ukraine’s war with Russia.

It was Mr Blinken’s first meeting since arriving in Kiev in the morning and came at Russian military gains in the northeastern part of the country. Speaking in a splendid conference room in the presidential office on Bankova Street, Zelensky said Blinken arrived at a “difficult time in the east of our country.”

The Ukrainian leader thanked Mr Blinken for a “vital” $60.8 billion aid package for Ukraine, which President Biden signed last month after months of infighting among congressional Republicans . But Zelensky was quick to add that Ukraine still has needs, pointing to Russia’s military advances in recent days around the northeastern city of Kharkiv. Russian troops captured another village, Lukiantsi, overnight and bombed the city of Kharkiv on Tuesday morning, wounding four people.

Zelensky called air defense “our deficit” and “we really need it today, the two Patriots in Kharkiv.” Patriot is an American-made surface-to-air missile system.

Blinken did not respond specifically to the request, but he told Zelenskyy that incoming U.S. aid – some of which he said had already arrived – would “have a real impact on the battlefield.”

The unannounced visit was Blinken’s fourth to the Ukrainian capital since taking office. full russian invasion February 2022. Blinken, who arrived on an overnight train from Poland, planned to speak later Tuesday to celebrate the influx of U.S. aid and describe Russia’s failure to control the country as a strategic success for Ukraine. to senior U.S. officials.

Blinken will also stress that Ukraine must continue to make progress on democratic governance and anti-corruption reforms if it wants to integrate with the West, the official said.

Biden and Blinken have warned for months that delays in Congress approving much-needed U.S. weapons would leave Ukrainian forces vulnerable on the eastern front that has been locked in a stalemate for months. The U.S. official declined to link the delay in aid to Russian military gains near the city of Kharkiv. But the funding gap has clearly weakened Ukraine’s military, which is short of ammunition and other critical equipment, the official said.

The official said Ukrainian forces have held their ground and are inflicting heavy losses on the Russians and may make gains as U.S. aid flows into the country.

Mr Blinken and Mr Zelensky have developed a good personal relationship through numerous meetings in Europe and the United States over the past few years. The secretary of state, who visited Kiev twice a year before Russia’s full-scale invasion, is considered one of Washington’s key backers of Western support for Ukraine.

“I know you worked hard for this positive decision,” Zelensky told Blinken of the new aid package that the secretary of state had lobbied hard for.

“We have come a long way together over the past few years,” Mr. Blinken said before the men began the private portion of the meeting.

Another senior U.S. official would not say whether Russia had been informed of Blinken’s visit in advance. Russian forces regularly use missiles and drones to attack Kiev.

Blinken is the first senior Biden official to visit Ukraine since the congressional aid package passed.White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan Meeting with Mr. Zelensky In Kiev at the end of March, before the package passed.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Financial Times this month, Mr Sullivan said He expected Russia to make some short-term gains, but that new U.S. aid would allow Ukraine to “hold its ground” and eventually begin to retake territory.

Maria Valennikova Contributed reporting.

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