In kyiv, Blinken and Austin announce aid and diplomatic momentum

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NEAR THE POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER (AP) – The United States announced new military assistance to Ukraine and a fresh diplomatic push in the war-torn country as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of State and Chief of the Pentagon made a secret trip to kyiv.

During the highest-level US visit to the capital since the Russian invasion in late February, Senior Envoy Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and his advisers that the United States would provide over $300 million in foreign military funding and had approved a $165 million ammunition sale.

They also said Biden would soon announce his nominee for ambassador to Ukraine and that US diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would begin returning to the country next week. The United States Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the time being.

Zelenskyy had announced on Saturday that he would meet with US officials in Kyiv on Sunday, but the Biden administration declined to confirm this and declined to discuss details of a possible visit even though planning had been underway for more than a week. .

Journalists who traveled with Austin and Blinken to Poland were banned from reporting on the trip until it was completed, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland trip to Ukraine, and were not allowed to specify where in southeastern Poland they were expecting the Cabinet members to return. State Department and Pentagon officials cited security concerns.

Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military funding for Ukraine and 15 allies and partners; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv. The rest will be split among NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

Such funding is different from previous US military assistance to Ukraine. This is not a donation of depleted stocks from the US Department of Defense, but rather money that countries can use to purchase supplies they may need.

The new funds, along with the sale of $165 million in non-U.S.-made ammunition compatible with Soviet-era weapons used by Ukrainians, bring the total amount of U.S. military aid to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the invasion, officials said.

Zelenskyy had urged Americans not to come empty-handed. U.S. officials said they believe the new aid will satisfy at least some of Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help. New artillery pieces, including howitzers, continue to be delivered at a rapid pace to the Ukrainian military, which is being trained in its use in neighboring countries, officials said.

On the diplomatic front, Blinken told Zelenskyy that Biden would announce the appointment of veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as the next US ambassador to Ukraine. A career foreign service officer, Brink has been ambassador to Slovakia since 2019. She previously held positions in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as on the White House National Security Council. The position must be confirmed by the United States Senate.

Blinken also told Ukraine’s foreign minister that the small staff at the now-closed US Embassy in kyiv, which moved to Poland from temporary offices in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, would begin to do day trips to Lviv in the next few days. Officials said the United States has accelerated its review of security conditions in the capital and that the State Department will reopen the embassy there as soon as the situation allows.

Biden has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide for the destruction and death inflicted on Ukraine. Last Thursday, Biden said he would provide a new $800 million military aid package to Ukraine, including heavy artillery and drones.

Congress last month approved $6.5 billion in military aid as part of $13.6 billion in spending for Ukraine and its allies in response to the Russian invasion.

From Poland, Blinken plans to return to Washington while Austin travels to Ramstein, Germany, for a Tuesday meeting of defense ministers from NATO and other donor nations.

This discussion will focus on battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine, and longer-term defense needs in Europe, including how to increase military production to fill the gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials said. More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.

Participating Ukrainian officials were Zelenskyy, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Olexiy Reznikov, Ambassador Oskana Markarova, Presidential Administration Head Andriy Yermak, Defense Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Andrii Sybiya of the Zelenskyy’s office.

In addition to Blinken and Austin, State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Sullivan, Senior Military Assistant Lt. Gen. Randy George, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper represented the United States.

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