Ukraine War: Blinken and Austin announce aid and diplomatic surge

WARSAW: The United States announced new military assistance to Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-torn nation as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of State and the Pentagon chief completed a secretly shrouded trip to kyiv.
In the highest-level US visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February, top envoy Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and his advisers that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million ammunition sale.
They also said that 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 US 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 refused to confirm this, refusing to discuss details of a possible visit even though planning had been underway for more than one week.
The journalists who traveled with Austin and Blinken to Poland were prohibited from reporting on the trip until it was over, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey to Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in southeastern Poland members were expected. of the Cabinet. return.
State Department and Pentagon officials cited security concerns.
Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; about 322 million dollars are destined for kyiv.
The rest will be divided among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.
Such financing is different from previous US military assistance to Ukraine.
It is not a donation from the US Department of Defense reserves, but cash that countries can use to buy supplies they may need.
The new money, along with the sale of $165 million worth of non-U.S.-made munitions that are compatible with Soviet-era weapons used by the Ukrainians, brings the total amount of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7 billion. dollars since the invasion, officials said.
Zelenskyy had urged the Americans not to come empty-handed. US officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help.
New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained for use in neighboring countries, the officials said.
On the diplomatic front, Blinken told Zelenskyy that Biden will announce his nomination of veteran diplomat Bridget Brink to be the next US ambassador to Ukraine.
Brink, a career foreign service officer, has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia.
He previously held positions in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia, and Uzbekistan, as well as on the White House National Security Council.
The publication requires the confirmation of the Senate of the United States.
Blinken also told Ukraine’s foreign minister that the small staff of the now-closed US Embassy in kyiv, which had moved to Poland from temporary offices in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, would begin making trips. from one day to Lviv in the next few days.
Officials said the United States has accelerated its review of security conditions in the capital and the State Department will reopen the embassy there as soon as the situation allows.
Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide for the destruction and death caused in Ukraine.
Just on Thursday, Biden said he would provide a new $800 million military aid package to Ukraine that included heavy artillery and drones.
Congress approved $6.5 billion in military assistance last month 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 will head to Ramstein, Germany, for a Tuesday meeting of defense ministers from NATO and other donor countries.
That discussion will look at battlefield upgrades from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine, and long-term defense needs in Europe, including how to increase military production to fill gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials said.
More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.
The Ukrainian officials who participated 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 from the Office of Zelenskyy.
Representing the United States, in addition to Blinken and Austin, were State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Sullivan, Senior Military Aide Lt. Gen. Randy George, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper.

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