Austin will travel to Germany, where he will host his counterparts from more than 20 countries and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the US Ramstein airbase to discuss Ukraine’s defense needs, a Pentagon official said.
Zelenskyy announced the trip himself during a news conference on Saturday, which US officials said was a contingency they had planned for and did not derail the visit.
Blinken and Austin were expected to meet for about 90 minutes with Zelenskyy, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and other officials.
US diplomats departed the kyiv embassy nearly two weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion, moving some duties to the western city of Lviv before finally moving on to Poland.
Diplomats will initially resume “day trips” across the border to Lviv next week and officials are accelerating planning to return to the kyiv mission, the State Department official said.
“There is no substitute for that face-to-face engagement and of course there is a symbolism of being back in the country,” said the official, who briefed reporters in Poland on condition of anonymity.
The official also said that on Monday President Joe Biden will formally nominate Bridget Brink, currently the US ambassador to Slovakia, as US ambassador to Ukraine, a post that had been vacant for more than two years.
BATTLE FOR THE DONBAS
Blinken and Austin informed Zelenskyy of more than US$322 million in new foreign military funding for Ukraine, bringing total US security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion to about US$3.7 billion, the official said.
“It will provide support for capabilities that Ukraine needs, especially the fighting in Donbas,” the official said. “This assistance will also help Ukraine’s armed forces transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems, essentially NATO-compliant systems.”
Nearly $400 million in new foreign military funding will also go to 15 other nations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the official said.
More than 50 Ukrainians were set to complete training on Monday to operate the Howitzer heavy artillery that Washington has begun sending to Ukraine in recent weeks to reflect that fighting is now focused on the flatter, more open Donbas region, he told reporters. journalists in Poland Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. .
Before the visit, Blinken spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday to coordinate the UN chief’s visits to Moscow and kyiv, the official said.