U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv on an unannounced two-day visit, his fourth to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February 2022. It is the first time he and his entourage are spending the night in the country.
Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to hear their assessment of their needs for the ongoing counteroffensive against Russia and the coming winter.
He had good news for them, announcing $1 billion more in U.S. aid for Ukraine. The security assistance part of the package totals up to $175 million and includes additional air defense equipment, artillery munitions, anti-tank weapons including depleted uranium rounds for previously committed Abrams tanks, and other equipment.
Asked if he is concerned about sustaining that level of U.S. aid among American citizens and lawmakers, Blinken was optimistic.
“I was last here almost exactly a year ago,” he said. “And in that time, in the year since I was last here, Ukraine has taken back more than 50% of the territory that Russia has seized from it since February 2022. In the current counteroffensive, we are seeing real progress over the last few weeks."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said what is being decided in this war is not just about Ukraine, but about what the world is going to look like after the war is over. If Russia wins, other autocrats will be empowered to invade their neighbors, he said, asking, ‘If the West cannot win this war, what war can they win?”
But on Capitol Hill, one Republican senator expressed concerns to VOA, saying he would like to see a definitive strategy from the Biden administration for Ukraine to win the war.
“I’d like to see an announcement coming from all the NATO members saying that they are willing to step up. … I just got back from a trip to Europe, and we encouraged our NATO allies to actually step up their game, and I would like to see that happen,” Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee said.
The United States is the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine in total dollars. But a number of other countries, including Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, are making larger financial contributions to Ukraine relative to the size of their own economies, according to the Kiel Institute.
Just three hours before Blinken arrived in Kyiv on a train from Poland, Russia carried out airstrikes on the capital and the southern region of Odesa. No casualties were reported in Kyiv, but Ukrainian officials say a civilian was killed and port infrastructure damaged in the south. And a Russian strike Wednesday on a market in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostyantynivka killed more than 16 people and wounded 28 others, Ukrainian sources said.
Despite the Russian airstrikes, Blinken laid a wreath at a cemetery for fallen Ukrainian soldiers, visited a church to hear about the Ukrainian first lady’s mental health program, visited diplomatic staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and even grabbed a snack with Foreign Minister Kuleba at a McDonald’s near the opera.
Kuleba thanked Blinken for his help in getting the restaurant reopened, saying it sends a signal of confidence to his countrymen after 18 months of war and deprivation.
President Zelenskyy tweeted Wednesday that he has been meeting with his top staff to make plans for winter, and in his words, “anything the terrorist Russian state might do.”
Russia has accused the United States of prolonging the war by supporting Ukraine, amid reports that Moscow faces a serious shortage of weapons and ammunition.