U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Ukraine on a previously unannounced trip to show Washington’s continuing support for Kyiv, six months after Russia invaded the country.
The United States plans to provide Ukraine with new security assistance of up to $675 million in value, two weeks after Washington pledged $3 billion in security aid packages to Kyiv.
“It’s such a consequential moment for Ukraine” as the country recently marked its Independence Day and as the Ukrainians people are now “focused on the counteroffensive” against Russia’s military aggression, a senior State Department official said.
Blinken’s trip to Kyiv also comes ahead of the annual U.N. General Assembly, where world leaders are set to gather for what U.S. officials said is an occasion to reaffirm the principles in the U.N. Charter about sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“We are focused on helping ensure that Ukraine prevails in this war and we’re providing the security assistance so that when we get to the day where we move to a negotiated settlement, Ukraine is in the strongest possible position,” the senior official said.
The additional security package will include more Howitzers; High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS; high-speed anti-radiation missiles; grenade launchers; medical armored vehicles; and night vision devices, among other equipment.
That would bring the U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to a total of $13.5 billion since February 24, and $14.2 billion since the beginning of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.
On Wednesday, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhny, said publicly for the first time that Ukraine had carried out missile strikes that hit Russian military bases in annexed Crimea, according to Agence France-Presse.
The United States has been providing defense items to Ukraine via Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), by which the president can authorize the immediate transfer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks.
On August 24, Ukraine’s Independence Day, the Biden administration announced approximately $3 billion in security assistance under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which is its largest-ever security aid package for Ukraine since the war began.
Later Thursday, Blinken is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. This is the top U.S. diplomat’s third trip to Ukraine since the war started in February.
Blinken was last in Kyiv with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on April 24. During that trip, the plan for U.S. diplomats to return to Ukraine was announced. In March, Blinken met with Kuleba at the Poland-Ukraine border.
While in Kyiv, Blinken is scheduled to visit a children’s hospital. Since February 24, an average of five children have been killed or injured in Ukraine every day, according to a humanitarian aid organization “Save the Children” that cited verified United Nations data.
Blinken will head to Brussels later this week for meetings with NATO counterparts.
As Ukraine continues to focus on what’s described as a “counteroffensive” against Russia, U.S. officials indicated diplomatic talks between the two countries do not appear to be a top priority for Ukraine.
“Right now, the Ukrainians do not have a viable map from which to negotiate. Twenty percent of their territory has gone, something like 30% of their industrial and agricultural potential is gone. That’s why they’re launching this counter offensive,” another senior State Department official said.
The Ukrainian military has started a counterattack across the Kherson region since late August seeking to regain control of the territory from Russian forces.