US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv Wednesday on what is his third trip to the Ukrainian capital since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, seeking to double down on US support for Kyiv’s counteroffensive and make the political case back home that the US needs to commit billions of dollars more to help defeat Vladmir Putin.
The visit comes as Ukraine’s counteroffensive moves into its fourth month, with both political and military leaders in Kyiv talking up recent gains, especially in the south of the country, following growing concerns the concerted push on the battlefield has failed to produce results.
The top US diplomat is expected to announce more than a billion dollars in additional funding for Kyiv’s war effort as the Biden administration braces for a political struggle to secure more money from Congress. Blinken’s arrival in Kyiv comes less than a month after President Joe Biden asked for more than $24 billion to help Ukraine defeat Russia, as some polls show the American public’s support for continued funding is softening. This visit will help the administration make the case for that continued support to the American people, a senior US official said.
Blinken’s first stop on Wednesday was at a military cemetery, where he laid a wreath in honor of Ukraine’s fallen soldiers. Later he is scheduled to meet with, among others, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, from whom he can expect a first-hand report of Ukraine’s efforts to regain land around the eastern city of Bakhmut – the Ukrainian leader visited with his troops there on Tuesday.
Blinken has already met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. He said he was again “struck by the extraordinary bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian forces, Ukraine’s leadership.”
“We’ve seen good progress in the counteroffensive, which is very heartening. We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs not only to succeed in the counteroffensive, but it has what it needs for the long term, to make sure that it has a strong deterrent… so that in the future, aggressions like this don’t happen again,” Blinken added.
He added he wanted to work with partners to “build and rebuild a strong economy (and) a strong democracy” in Ukraine.
The visit by Washington’s top diplomat is an opportunity for the United States and Ukraine to align ahead of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) later this month, a senior state department official told reporters traveling with Blinken.
“The Ukrainians have an important mission in New York to continue to explain – to their allies and partners around the world – what’s going on and their continued need for support. And it’s important for us to continue to lead that global effort to support them,” the official said.
“Having a chance to consult and align before we get to New York is very, very important.”
The official reiterated an argument for supporting Ukraine that Biden has made in the past, saying that it is about “dictators and autocrats not being able to bite off a piece of their neighbor and get to keep it live that way with impunity.” When asked if the new package of support would include depleted-uranium munitions, after a report that the administration had decided to move ahead with the controversial munitions, the official would not comment.
While some US officials have been privately critical of Ukraine’s counteroffensive strategy, the official would not delve into specifics other than to say that now is the right time to “come and assess” how the counteroffensive is going.
“We want to see, hear, how they intend to push forward in the coming weeks,” the official said, adding that the US sees the country making “some impressive advances in the south in particular, but also in the east in recent days and weeks.”
Blinken arrived in Kyiv Wednesday morning after making an overnight journey by train from Poland, in common with almost all high-profile visitors to the war-torn city, including Biden.
In April 2022 Blinken made the trip with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, just a few weeks after Russian forces had withdrawn from areas immediately to the north of the Ukrainian capital. His second trip was in September last year as Ukraine’s first big counteroffensive was underway in the Kharkiv region.
According to the State Department, Blinken also briefly went into Ukraine in March 2022, when he met on the border with Foreign Minister Kuleba.
Source : CNN