Making the first official U.S. visit to Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago, Washington’s top diplomat and its defense secretary pledged additional military aid, including advanced weapons, and a return of U.S. envoys to Kyiv.
In a visit designed to show Western support, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy and other top officials in Kyiv late on Sunday (April 24), after a train journey from Poland.
U.S. officials said the cabinet secretaries pledged new assistance worth $713 million for Zelenskiy’s government and other countries in the region that are fearful of further Russian aggression.
The meeting between the U.S. delegation and Ukraine’s leaders ran for three hours, or more than double the allotted time, a U.S. official said.
Before the visit by Blinken and Austin, Ukrainian officials drew up a list of weapons urgently needed from the United States, such as anti-missile systems, anti-aircraft systems, armored vehicles and tanks, Zelenskiy aide Igor Zhovkva told NBC News on Sunday.
The high level U.S. visit highlighted the shift in the conflict since Ukrainian forces, armed with a massive influx of weapons from the West, fought off a Russian assault on the capital Kyiv.
Russia has failed to capture any major city since the invasion started on Feb. 24, and having failed to take Kyiv, has concentrated its forces in the south and east, launching an offensive that Zelenskiy dubbed the battle of the Donbas.