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Blinken in Ukraine on unannounced visit to show US support

By AFP

May 14, 2024 06:33 PM


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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived Tuesday morning in Kyiv on an unannounced visit meant to reassure Ukrainians of continued US support and flow of weapons as Russia pummels the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Marking his fourth visit to Kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Blinken arrived by overnight train from Poland and was due to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to an AFP journalist accompanying him.

The visit comes just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a $61 billion package of financial aid for Ukraine after months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country's stretched troops.

The aid is expected to flow at an accelerated pace as Washington seeks to make up for lost months while Congress struggled to agree on assistance.

"First this trip is to send a strong signal of reassurance to the Ukrainians who are obviously in a very difficult moment both with grinding battle on the Eastern Front but also with the Russians now expanding some cross-border attacks into Kharkiv," a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters aboard the train.

The secretary intends in particular to detail how US aid will "be executed in a fashion to help shore up their defences and enable them to increasingly take back the initiative on the battlefield."

The last visit by a senior US official was in March, when National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan went to Ukraine.

Russia is "clearly throwing everything they have in the east and expanding the fighting to Kharkiv is representative of that strategy," the official said.

"But we have a lot of confidence that the Ukrainians will increasingly be effective in pushing the Russians back as our assistance flows in both from the United States and other allies and partners."

In addition to holding talks with Zelensky, Blinken is expected to meet with his counterpart Dmytro Kuleba as well as members of the civil society and additionally deliver a speech focused on "Ukraine's strategic success".

Also up for discussion is a bilateral defence agreement that the United States hopes to conclude before the NATO summit in Washington in July.

"The negotiations are in their final stages, we're very close," the US official said.


AFP


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