Blinken in Kyiv unveils $2 billion in US military aid to Europe

KYIV, Ukraine – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Thursday as the Biden administration announced major new military aid worth more than $2.8 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

In meetings with senior Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Blinken said the Biden administration informed Congress of its intention to provide $2.2 billion in long-term military funding to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbours, including NATO members and regional security partners, that are “potentially at risk of future Russian aggression”.

“President (Joe) Biden has been clear that we will support the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes, Blinken said in a statement. “I reiterated this message to President Zelensky and his team today in Kyiv, which remains – and will remain – the capital of a sovereign and independent Ukraine.”

The new military funding and weapons are designed to provide sustained training and support for what U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called a “very deliberate” counteroffensive that troops Ukrainians launched to retake the territory gained by the Russians in the south and the east.

The White House said Biden was holding a call with allies and partners “to underscore our continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression.”

The foreign military funding comes on top of a separate $675 million package of heavy weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles for Ukraine alone that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Milley announced earlier Thursday during a conference in Ramstein, Germany.

“We are seeing real, measurable gains from Ukraine in using these systems,” Milley said. He said Russia was suffering major losses of equipment and troops. But, he added, “The war is not over. Russia is a great country. They have very serious ambitions vis-à-vis Ukraine. So Ukraine’s support for continuing his fight for his survival will be necessary.”

Pending expected Congressional approval, approximately $1 billion of the $2.2 billion will go to Ukraine and the rest will be split between Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Montenegro. , North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the State Department said.

It will help these countries “deter and defend against emerging threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity” by strengthening their military integration with NATO and countering “Russian influence and aggression”, the minister said. department.

“This assistance once again demonstrates our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s future as a democratic, sovereign and independent state, as well as the security of allies and partners across the region,” he said. .

Asked about Congress’ continued support for the massive aid packages, Austin said the administration would provide its rationale to lawmakers, and “I fully expect it to continue to receive broad bipartisan support because our leaders recognize how important it is.”

Foreign military funding allows recipients to purchase US-made defense equipment, often based on their specific needs.

The package announced by Austin includes howitzers, artillery ammunition, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems and more, intended to help Ukraine meet its short-term needs as it launches a counter-offensive against Russian forces.

Austin said “the war is at another key moment”.

“Now we see the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield,” he told a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group, attended by the NATO Secretary General. Jens Stoltenberg and the Ukrainian Minister of Defense as well as officials from allied countries. countries.

Germany and the Netherlands will provide demining training to Ukrainian soldiers as well as demining equipment, the countries’ defense ministers said on the sidelines of the meeting with Austin. The training will take place in Germany. The two countries previously joined forces to send howitzers to Ukraine.

Austin also announced that the United States would convene a meeting of senior international leaders to discuss how its various defense industrial bases could best equip future Ukrainian forces in the future.

“The capabilities we provide are carefully calibrated to make the biggest difference on the battlefield,” Blinken said.

Thursday’s contributions bring total US aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since Biden took office. US officials said the new pledges were meant to show that US support for the country in the face of the Russian invasion remains firm.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was grateful for the “tremendous support” the United States had sent to Ukraine and praised Biden and Congress. He said the United States was helping Ukraine “return our territory and our land.”

The announcements come as fighting between Ukraine and Russia has intensified in recent days, with Ukrainian forces mounting a counteroffensive to retake areas under Russian control.

Ukrainian forces in the northeast Kharkiv region have retaken parts of Russian-held territory as a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south has drained some of Moscow’s resources in the region, according to a report by the think tank based at Washington Institute for the Study of War.

Meanwhile, shelling continued near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, with warring parties once again trading blame amid dire warnings from the UN’s atomic watchdog, which has urged the creation of a safety zone to avoid a disaster.

On Wednesday, the United States accused Moscow of interrogating, detaining and forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia. Russian officials dismissed the claim as “fantastic”.

In Kyiv, before meeting Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken visited the US Embassy and then the Ohmatdyt National Specialized Children’s Hospital, where he saw boys and girls wounded in the Russian shelling, including Maryna, a 6-year-old child from the town. from Kherson who lost a leg after a rocket hit his house.

In the hospital lobby, Blinken also met Patron, a Jack Russell terrier who helped the Ukrainian military find more than 200 mines laid by Russian forces. Blinken knelt down, petted the dog and presented him with treats, saying he was “world famous”.

In one room, Blinken brought a basket of stuffed animals, which the children quickly hung in front of Patron to get his attention.

Blinken told parents that “the spirit of your children sends a very strong message across the world.”

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