Blinken and Austin travel to Kyiv to meet Zelensky

Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the Ukrainian capital, where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials, making them the most senior US officials to have visited the country. since the beginning of the Russian invasion at the end of February.

While in Kyiv, Blinken and Austin met with Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and Interior Minister Denys Monastrysky for an extended bilateral meeting of about 90 minutes, said the top State Department official.

Speaking at a press conference at an undisclosed location in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Monday after his trip to kyiv, Blinken told reporters that Russian attempts to “subjugate Ukraine and gain independence” had “failed”.

“Russia has sought as its main objective to totally subjugate Ukraine to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence – that has failed. It has sought to assert the power of its army and its economy, we of course only see that the opposite, an army that is dramatically underperforming and an economy…because of the sanctions that is in shambles,” Blinken said.

“We don’t know how the rest of this war will play out, but we do know that a sovereign and independent Ukraine will exist much longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene,” he said.

RELATED: Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

As part of the resumption of the U.S. diplomatic presence in Ukraine, diplomats will “begin with day trips to Lviv” and “eventually travel to other parts of the country and ultimately to resume their presence in Kyiv.” said a senior State Department official. .

Blinken and Austin discussed the Biden administration’s intention to provide $713 million in additional foreign military funding to help Ukraine move to NATO-compatible systems, according to the senior State Department official and a senior Defense Department official, as well as recent US military aid deliveries. in Ukraine and the continuous training of Ukrainian soldiers.

Blinken also said US President Joe Biden would appoint Bridget Brink as US Ambassador to Ukraine, according to the senior State Department official. The post which has been without a confirmed ambassador since the recall of Marie Yovanovitch in May 2019. Brink is the current US Ambassador to Slovakia.
Zelensky announced on Saturday that Blinken and Austin would travel to Kyiv, and the White House declined to comment at the time.

The two officials briefed the press who had traveled to the area shortly before Blinken and Austin’s scheduled arrival in Kyiv; the traveling American press corps did not travel with the secretaries to the Ukrainian capital.

They also discussed diplomacy efforts the Ukrainians are undertaking with the Russians, the senior State Department official said.

In the background briefing, officials made it clear that the US military would still not be directly involved in the war.

“The president has been very clear that there will be no US troops fighting in Ukraine and that includes the skies above Ukraine,” the defense official said, adding, “This visit leaves not predict a real involvement of American forces”.

While officials hailed the trip as a testament to U.S. commitment to Ukraine, they also must have wondered why Biden didn’t make the trip himself.

“The President of the United States is somewhat singular, in terms of travel. So that goes far beyond what a Cabinet Secretary or virtually any other world leader would need,” the official noted. state department.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the country earlier this month. Senior EU and Baltic officials also visited Zelensky in Kyiv.

Blinken and Austin’s visit came as the first tranche of about 50 Ukrainians will undergo artillery training in a country outside Ukraine, the defense official said. Another tranche of around 50 Ukrainians will also start training soon, the defense official said.

“The first tranche of artillery training is complete,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters who traveled to the region with the secretaries during a briefing in Poland on Sunday. “We are training soldiers who will come back, and their colleagues will be able to follow and be aware of the systems.”

Some of the howitzers included in the latest military assistance package to Ukraine are already in the country, the defense official said. Howitzers should be effective at this stage of the war as they are moved to Donbass, where the terrain is suitable for “long-range” weapons, Kirby said.
What happens to the weapons sent to Ukraine?  The United States does not really know

Kirby noted the speed with which military assistance shipments arrived in Ukraine and said the decision to deploy the assistance was up to the Ukrainians.

“It doesn’t take more than 24 to 48 hours depending on what’s being shipped and the availability of ground transportation to get it to Ukraine,” Kirby said. “As we’ve said before, when (aid is) transferred into Ukrainian hands, it’s Ukrainian property, and we don’t dictate to them how fast they get it to the front line or which units get them.”

Military officials have described to reporters the continued concern of NATO countries over the threat Russia poses to them.

“Not just here in Poland, I think many countries are concerned about Russia’s next steps,” said Lt. Gen. John Stephen Kolasheski, commanding general of V Corps in Poland. “And we’re very happy that the US military is working here side by side — helping them develop their capabilities and capabilities. … I think they recognize that Russia is now and will be a threat in the future.”

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