U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv on an unannounced two-day visit, his fourth to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February 2022.
Blinken is expected to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to hear their assessment of their needs for the ongoing counteroffensive against Russia and the coming winter.
“We’ve seen good progress on the counteroffensive (inaudible). We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs not only to succeed in the counteroffensive but has what it needs for the long term to make sure that it has a strong deterrent, strong defense capacity so that, in the future, aggressions like this don’t happen again,” Blinken said ahead of his talks Wednesday.
Blinken is likely to announce a new package of U.S. assistance worth more than $1 billion, a senior State Department official told reporters on the trip.
Several hours before his arrival, Russia carried out airstrikes on Kyiv and the southern region of Odesa. No casualties were reported in the capital city, but Ukrainian officials say a civilian was killed and port infrastructure damaged in the south.
The State Department says Blinken intends to demonstrate ironclad U.S. support for Ukraine, and to coordinate with leaders there ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, where Washington will lead the push for continued support for Kyiv.
President Zelenskyy tweeted that he has been meeting with his top staff to make plans for winter, and in his words, “anything the terrorist Russian state might do.”
Russia has accused the United States of prolonging the war by supporting Ukraine, amid reports that Moscow faces a serious shortage of weapons and ammunition.
A senior State Department official traveling with Blinken was asked by reporters about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the coming days in Vladivostok to ask for weapons and ammunition.
The official told reporters: “It speaks to Russian desperation that they have to go scrounging for stuff in Pyongyang, you know, and that Putin has to fly half all the way across his country to meet another autocrat.”
The State Department official compared that with the coalition that supports Ukraine, at some 50 countries around the world./Voice of America/