Blinken makes unannounced trip to Ukraine, pledges $2.6 billion in security assistance to region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ukraine Thursday for an undisclosed trip, his third visit to the country since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

He landed in the country after an overnight flight and met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, just hours after Ukraine’s military chief publicly warned of the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons in the conflict.

Later in the day, Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who presented him with a special medal awarded to people for distinguished service of the state.

During the meeting, Blinken announced a $675 million drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine, confirmed by a senior Department of State official earlier in the day. The 20th drawdown since September 2021, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mentioned in remarks to allies in Germany earlier Thursday, includes additional arms, munitions and equipment from U.S. military inventories.

Blinken also announced that the State Department is notifying Congress that it will make $2 billion available in long-term investments to strengthen the security of Ukraine and 18 other neighboring countries, including many NATO allies.

“In total, the secretary will announce $2.6 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine and its neighbors today. These announcements will bring the total U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to approximately $15.2 billion since the beginning of this administration,” the State Department official said.

In the city of Irpin, located near Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, Blinken shook hands and spoke with local leaders near bombed-out, deserted apartment buildings. Khrystyna Podyryaka, director of the National Police of Ukraine’s War Crimes Investigation Unit, told Blinken that they were investigating 30,000 recorded war crimes, including 20,000 that directly involve the civilian population. Blinken reiterated the importance of holding Russia accountable and investigating war crimes.  

Blinken’s visit comes on the heels of a call last month with Kuleba, in which he reinforced U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense needs. President Joe Biden later announced a $3 billion package to train and equip Ukrainian armed forces.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits a children’s hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. Emilio Morenatti / AP

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has mocked the West’s response to the war, saying Wednesday that his nation had “not lost anything” amid a host of sanctions that targeted elites and services that helped finance the ongoing invasion.

Ukraine also faces nuclear concerns regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest.

On Wednesday, Ukraine called for the residents of Russian-occupied areas around the power plant to evacuate for their own safety. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the nuclear plant, risking a nuclear disaster.

Blinken’s trip comes roughly four months after he visited Ukraine with Austin. At the time, Blinken said they weren’t able to visit much of Kyiv or speak to many people due to security concerns.

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