US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Sunday, where they met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since Russia began its invasion.
Here are the key moments to come from this visit:
Blinken said US diplomats would return to Ukraine this week, a senior State Department official said, characterizing the move as a strong message of solidarity from the United States.
As part of the resumed US diplomatic presence in Ukraine, diplomats will “start with day trips into the Lviv” and “will graduate to potentially other parts of the country and ultimately, to resume presence in Kyiv,” according to a senior State Department official.
Austin: “We want to see Russia weakened” While in Kyiv, Blinken and Austin also met with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and Interior Minister Denys Monastrysky for an extended, roughly 90-minute bilateral meeting, the senior State Department official said. The defense minister outline some of the United States’ goals as the country continues to support Ukraine’s efforts in the war.
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said at a news conference at an undisclosed location in Poland near the Ukrainian border following the trip to Kyiv. “So it has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”
More aid to Ukraine Blinken and Austin discussed the Biden administration’s intention to provide $713 million in additional foreign military financing to Ukraine and allied European and Balkan partners, according to the senior State Department official and a senior Defense Department official.
US President Joe Biden on Monday announced that he will nominate Bridget Brink as US ambassador to Ukraine. The post that has been without a confirmed ambassador since Marie Yovanovitch was recalled in May 2019. Brink is the current US ambassador to Slovakia.
Blinken and Austin’s visit came as the first tranche of about 50 Ukrainians will complete artillery training in a country outside Ukraine, the defense official said. Another tranche of about 50 Ukrainians will also begin training soon, a defense official said.
Zelensky’s office issued a readout of the meeting on Monday, stressing the importance of the US officials’ visit and saying the country “counts on the support of our partners.”
Officials reiterate no involvement by US forces In a background briefing, the State and Defense officials made clear that the US military would still not be involved directly in the war.
In the Monday press briefing, Austin said the US believes Ukraine can win the war against Russia with “the right equipment and the right support.”
Will Biden visit? While officials hailed the trip as a testament to the US commitment to Ukraine, they have also faced questions about why Biden did not make the trip himself.
“The President of the United States is somewhat singular, in terms of what travel would require. So it goes well beyond what a Cabinet secretary would or what virtually any other world leader would require,” the State Department official noted.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the country earlier this month. Top officials from the EU and the Baltics have also visited Zelensky in Kyiv.
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Here are key takeaways from Blinken and Austin’s meetings in Kyiv