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US officials announce new aid for Ukraine following meeting with Zelensky

The United States announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed their trip to Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
The United States announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed their trip to Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The United States announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed their trip to Kyiv.

In the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February, top envoy Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, and his advisers that the US would provide more than 300 million US dollars (£234 million) in foreign military financing and had approved a 165 million dollar (£129 million) sale of ammunition.

They also said President Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The US Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Mr Zelensky had announced on Saturday that he would meet with the US officials in Kyiv on Sunday, but the Biden administration refused to confirm that and declined to discuss details of a possible visit even though planning had been underway for more than a week.

Journalists who travelled with Mr Austin and Mr Blinken to Poland were barred from reporting on the trip until it was over, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey into Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in southeast Poland they waited for the Cabinet members to return. Officials at the State Department and the Pentagon cited security concerns.

Mr Austin and Mr Blinken announced a total of 713 million dollars (£557 million) in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some 322 million dollars (£251 million) is earmarked for Kyiv. The remainder will be split among Nato members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during his meeting with Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022
Mr Blinken also told Mr Zelensky that President Biden will announce his nomination of veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as the next US ambassador to Ukraine (Susan Walsh/AP)

Such financing is different from previous US military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down US Defence Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.
Mr Zelensky had urged the Americans not to come empty-handed. US officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help. New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained on its use in neighbouring countries, the officials said.

On the diplomatic front, Mr Blinken told Mr Zelensky that President Biden will announce his nomination of veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as the next US ambassador to Ukraine. A career foreign service officer, Ms Brink has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia. She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requirements confirmation by the US Senate.

Mr Blinken also told Ukraine’s foreign minister that the small staff from the now-shuttered US Embassy in Kyiv, which has relocated to Poland from temporary offices in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, would begin making day trips to Lviv in the coming days. Officials said the US had accelerated its review of security conditions in the capital and that the State Department will reopen the embassy there as soon as the situation allows.

A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a heavily damaged apartment building after Russian bombardment in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 24, 2022.
Mr Zelensky had urged the Americans not to come empty-handed. US officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help (Felipe Dana/AP)

Mr Biden has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide for the destruction and death wrought on Ukraine. On Thursday Biden said he would provide a new package of 800 million dollars (£623 million) in military aid to Ukraine that included heavy artillery and drones.

From Poland, Mr Blinken plans to return to Washington while Mr Austin will head to Ramstein, Germany, for a meeting on Tuesday with Nato defence ministers and other donor countries.

That discussion will look at battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine and longer-term defence needs in Europe, including how to step up military production to fill gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials said. More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.

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