Blinken reaffirms US support of Ukraine in Kyiv visit

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken pays his respects to fallen Ukrainian soldiers at a makeshift memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 14, 2024. [Reuters]

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony Wednesday in Kyiv and meet with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as part of a visit meant to demonstrate U.S. support for Ukraine as Ukrainian forces face pressure from Russia in the eastern part of the country.

"We are with you today. And we will stay by your side until Ukraine's security, sovereignty, its ability to choose its own path, is guaranteed," Blinken said during a speech Tuesday evening.

Blinken’s visit follows approval of $61 billion in new aid for Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised as a “crucial package” in his Tuesday meeting with Blinken.

During the past week, Russia has intensified its attacks on the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine.

Russia’s defense ministry reported Wednesday destroying 10 missiles over Russia-occupied Crimea, as well as nine drones and multiple missiles over the western Russian region of Belgorod and several drones over both the Kursk and Bryansk regions.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the regional governor of Belgorod, reported two people were injured and seven homes were damaged as a result of Ukrainian attacks.

Energy infrastructure under attack

The U.N. office for humanitarian affairs said Tuesday that several waves of attacks in the Kharkiv region over the past few days have killed and injured numerous civilians, including children.

“These attacks have triggered yet more displacement from border and front-line communities,” OCHA’s Lisa Doughten told the U.N. Security Council. “As of today, authorities report that over 7,000 civilians were evacuated from border areas of the Kharkiv region.”

She said that since March, Russia has specifically targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, with the Kharkiv and Dnipro regions particularly affected. In April alone, the United Nations recorded 50 attacks that destroyed or damaged power generation plants and electricity substations, leaving millions across the country without power, water or cooking gas.

Doughten also expressed concern about what she said appears to be a new pattern of deadly attacks on railway infrastructure in Ukraine’s east and south, with 10 such attacks in April in government-controlled areas.

“And we are alarmed by reports of attacks damaging energy infrastructure and oil refineries in the Russian Federation,” Doughten added. “Such attacks risk inflaming the war further and worsening its humanitarian impacts.”

Moscow’s envoy dismissed the accusations, saying Russia’s air force carries out high precision strikes only on facilities related to Kyiv’s military capabilities. Vassily Nebenzia said life in Ukrainian cites is “proceeding normally, on the whole.”