Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited unannounced Ukraine Thursday – making his second visit to the country’s capital since the start of the war with Russia more than six months ago.
While in Kyiv, Blinken met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and visited a children’s hospital.
His trip comes as Ukraine has launched counter-offensives aimed at reclaiming Russian-occupied areas in the south and northeast of the country. It also coincides with a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group, hosted by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Austin and Blinken traveled to Ukraine at the end of April. They remain the most senior US officials to have visited the country since the war began in late February. Several heads of state have traveled to Ukraine to meet its President Volodymyr Zelensky. US President Joe Biden has not yet been there, although the two leaders have spoken by phone in recent weeks.
According to the State Department, Blinken also briefly visited Ukraine when he met at the Kuleba border in March.
The Biden administration has pledged continued support for Ukraine and has committed more than $13 billion in security assistance since the conflict began. Austin announced a further $675 million on Thursday. Additionally, Blinken is expected to announce Thursday that the United States intends to provide $2 billion to strengthen the security of Ukraine and 18 other countries in the region.
During Thursday’s trip, Blinken, accompanied by US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, visited the Ohmatdyt National Specialized Children’s Hospital in Kyiv and met children being treated there, including some injured during the war. He also met Patron, the mine-sniffing dog who gained international fame.
Blinken presented the Jack Russell terrier with dog treats, joking that “since he has already received a number of medals and awards, I thought he would actually prefer something more usable.” He posed for photos in the lobby with the vest-clad pup, who accompanied him on his tour of the hospital.
“We’ve been working on demining for a long time,” Blinken said. “We are honored to work with you on this.”
The top US diplomat met several children being treated in hospital, including a 6-year-old girl, Maryna, who lost part of her leg and has been in hospital since May after being injured in Kherson and Kateryna, 13. , who was injured in the Kramatorsk train station attack in early April and whose mother was killed.
“We so admire the courage, the spirit of your children. It sends a very strong message all over the world,” Blinken told the room. “And it’s an honor for me to meet you, to meet them and to see the wonderful work that the doctors are doing, the minister, Ronald McDonald House, everyone. We are just happy to be able to help and to be a friend and a partner.
This story has been updated with additional information.