Blinken makes an unannounced visit to Ukraine, pledging $2.6 billion in security aid to the region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ukraine on Thursday on 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 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 that day, Blinken met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who presented him with a special medal awarded to persons for distinguished service to the state.

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

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

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

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

Blinken’s visit follows a call last month with Kuleba, in which he bolstered US support for Ukraine’s defense needs. President Joe Biden then announced a $3 billion package to train and equip Ukraine’s armed forces.

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

Meanwhile, the Russian President Vladimir Poutine mocked the West’s response to the war, saying on Wednesday his country had ‘lost nothing’ amid a series of sanctions targeting elites and services that helped finance the invasion in Classes.

Ukraine also faces nuclear concerns regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant factory, the largest in Europe.

On Wednesday, Ukraine called on residents of Russian-occupied areas around the Powerful factory to evacuate for their own safety. Moscow and Kyiv accused each other of bombing the nuclear power plant, risking a nuclear catastrophe.

Blinken’s trip comes about four months after he visited Ukraine with Austin. At the time, Blinken said they were unable to visit much of Kyiv or speak to many people due to security concerns.

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