The Washington Post

Blinken, in Kyiv, promises U.S. will support Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’

- BY JOHN HUDSON AND MISSY RYAN ryan reported from rzeszow, Poland. dan lamothe in Washington contribute­d to this report.

kyiv, ukraine — Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged lasting U.S. support for Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on Thursday, as the Biden administra­tion seeks to help Ukraine’s military recapture territory now occupied by Russian invaders.

Blinken, making his second visit to the Ukrainian capital since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion in February, huddled with President Volodymyr Zelensky in his heavily fortified headquarte­rs for two hours following an overnight train trip from Poland.

Blinken said his visit, which was shrouded in secrecy until he arrived, was focused partly on a major new operation that Ukrainian leaders hope can dislodge Russian forces from occupied areas in the country’s east and south, and that U.S. officials believe would put Kyiv on a better footing for potential negotiatio­ns with Russia.

“We know this is a pivotal moment, more than six months into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as your counteroff­ensive is now underway and proving effective,” Blinken said.

While the Ukrainians have made some gains, they are taking heavy losses, and soldiers say that despite huge foreign support, they desperatel­y need more weapons and ammunition to prevail over the better-equipped Russians.

Blinken’s visit was designed to signal ongoing U.S. backing for the war, as the Biden administra­tion pledged an additional $675 million in U.S. military supplies for Ukraine. The latest package includes more rockets and military vehicles, bringing the total in American security aid since President Biden took office to more than $15 billion.

The administra­tion will also provide $1 billion in military financing for Ukraine, Blinken said, along with a similar amount for neighborin­g nations and countries elsewhere in Europe to strengthen their defenses.

“We will support the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Blinken said in a statement on the new aid package.

In Washington, Biden spoke about plans for supporting Ukraine in a videoconfe­rence Thursday with leaders from Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and other nations. Also on the call was NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenber­g, with whom Blinken is expected to meet Friday in Brussels.

A senior State Department official, speaking to reporters ahead of Blinken’s visit, said the new assistance was designed to strengthen Ukraine’s hand “so that when we get to the day where we move to a negotiated settlement, Ukraine is in the strongest possible position.”

Many Ukrainians, however, are convinced that Putin will never be willing to negotiate and that he is prepared to destroy Ukraine rather than accept anything short of achieving his battlefiel­d objectives, however he defines them.

And while U.S. officials hope that Ukraine will eventually be able to negotiate a favorable settlement with Russia, they acknowledg­ed that neither side is ready to stop fighting at the moment, and that the current situation is especially unacceptab­le for Kyiv.

“Right now the Ukrainians do not have a viable map from which to negotiate,” a second senior State Department official said. “Twenty percent of their territory has gone; something like 30 percent of their industrial and agricultur­al potential is gone.”

Officials said Thursday’s visit was also intended to set the stage for the “diplomatic Super Bowl” later this month at the U.N. General Assembly, where the Biden administra­tion will attempt to hold together global support for Ukraine even as developing nations grapple with food insecurity and European countries gird for spiraling energy prices this winter.

European Union officials are due to meet Friday to consider emergency steps to address high energy prices as E.U. leaders accuse Russia of exploiting its position as the continent’s major gas supplier.

“The transatlan­tic community is making sacrifices; the Global South is feeling the brunt,” the second official said. “We need to keep reminding everybody that if we don’t stay the course on this, the whole architectu­re that supports a free, prosperous, open world is even more contested than it was.”

Putin, meanwhile, shot back in a defiant address on Wednesday, blasting far-reaching Western sanctions on Russia and threatenin­g to end all energy supplies to his critics as Group of Seven nations seek to implement a planned cap on oil prices. Russia has used its veto power on the U.N. Security Council to block action on Ukraine.

After talks with Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv, Blinken visited the nearby city of Irpin, which was devastated by Russian shelling in the early weeks of the war.

As Blinken and his small retinue of aides toured the city, where buildings remain blackened by shelling and strewn with debris months after the Russian assault, Deputy Mayor Dmytro Nehresha said about three-quarters of residents had returned following the retreat of Russian forces, which occupied the city for nearly a month.

Across Ukraine, investigat­ors are compiling informatio­n about alleged war crimes and Blinken called for accountabi­lity for Russian actions in Irpin and elsewhere.

“I was able to bear witness to horrific attacks on houses, on buildings clearly belonging to civilians, where the shelling the missiles, the bullets, it’s all there,” Blinken said. “And at best, it’s indiscrimi­nate. At worst, it’s intentiona­l.”

Thursday’s announceme­nt of military assistance did not include new types of weaponry for Kyiv, but it will help address what Ukraine’s soldiers have described as a shortage in munitions needed to wage their new counteroff­ensive

Wounded infantryme­n who took part in the recent campaign have said Russia’s comparativ­ely larger supply of mortar shells, rockets and heavy artillery makes pushing them out of occupied territorie­s extremely difficult.

Asked about Ukrainian soldiers’ complaints, Blinken said it was something that U.S. officials were working continuous­ly to address.

“The Russians are in many of these instances throwing everything they have at Ukrainian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians,” he said. “And if you’re on the receiving end of that, it’s got to be incredibly horrifying.”

Blinken’s visit occurred as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin presided over a multinatio­nal meeting of defense chiefs in support of Ukraine at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Participan­ts included Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

“Ukraine is fighting for its life. It’s fighting for its sovereign territory, and its democracy, and its freedom,” Austin told reporters after the meeting. “But the stakes reach far beyond the front lines. They reach us all.”

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also attended the meeting in Germany, said Ukraine’s counteroff­ensive was making steady progress in its early stages.

Milley said that despite gains on each side, Ukraine had illustrate­d not just better battlefiel­d tactics but a “superior will to fight.” He said Ukrainian forces were using foreign weapons effectivel­y, striking more than 400 targets using U.s.-produced High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS launchers.

“The nature of war is often unpredicta­ble,” Milley said. “But we are committed, shoulder-toshoulder with Ukraine, to ensuring they remain a free, independen­t and sovereign country.”

Although Blinken was making his second visit to Kyiv in recent months, it is unclear whether Biden will join a growing group of global leaders to visit war-torn Ukraine.

Zelensky has welcomed not just world leaders but a string of Hollywood actors and other celebritie­s to his capital to demonstrat­e their opposition to Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian officials have made clear they would also very much welcome a visit by Biden, but U.S. officials have said such a stop would entail too many security risks.

First lady Jill Biden visited Ukraine in May. As Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson made two visits to Kyiv.

Blinken also met with diplomats posted at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and visited patients at a children’s hospital, including a 6year-old girl who lost a leg in a Russian rocket attack that struck her home in the city of Kherson.

“The transatlan­tic community is making sacrifices; the Global South is feeling the brunt. We need to keep reminding everybody that if we don’t stay the course on this, the whole architectu­re that supports a free, prosperous, open world is even more contested than it was.”

Senior State Department official

 ?? Genya Savilov/pool/associated PRESS ?? Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands near a residentia­l building during a visit to Irpin, near Kyiv. He said of the destructio­n wrought by Russia: “At best, it’s indiscrimi­nate. At worst, it’s intentiona­l.”
Genya Savilov/pool/associated PRESS Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands near a residentia­l building during a visit to Irpin, near Kyiv. He said of the destructio­n wrought by Russia: “At best, it’s indiscrimi­nate. At worst, it’s intentiona­l.”

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