US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Ukraine’s ‘extraordinary courage’ has foiled Russia’s advance on Kyiv.
Top US officials have held face-to-face talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital, Kyiv – the first official meeting since Russia invaded the country in late February – with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Moscow is failing in its war aims.
“In terms of Russia’s war aims, Russia has already failed and Ukraine has already succeeded,” Blinken told a news briefing after he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks with Zelenskyy that lasted for nearly three hours.
In the first official US visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion two months ago, the cabinet secretaries pledged new assistance worth $713m for Ukraine and countries in the region, where the Russian invasion has raised fears of further aggression by Moscow.
They also announced the gradual return of US diplomats to the war-torn country and the nomination of a new ambassador.
On Monday, President Joe Biden nominated Bridget Brink, the current ambassador to Slovakia, to be the US ambassador to Ukraine, according to the White House.
Western military experts say Russian President Vladimir Putin’s original aim was to decapitate the Ukrainian forces in a lightning operation, but it encountered a level of resistance that intelligence services failed to foresee.
Russian troops have lost more than 500 tanks and 300 armoured vehicles, according to the specialised blog Oryx, which lists material losses in Ukraine on the basis of photos or videos collected on the battlefield.
Moscow has denied intending to overthrow Ukraine’s government and sent more troops to eastern Ukraine. Last week, it launched a massive assault there in an attempt to capture eastern provinces in Donbas region.
Blinken and Austin remarked that the fact they were able to visit Kyiv was proof of Ukraine’s tenacity in forcing Moscow to abandon an assault on the capital last month, amid promises of more aid to fend off Russian troops.
“What you’ve done in repelling the Russians in the battle of Kyiv is extraordinary and inspiring quite frankly to the rest of the world,” Austin told Zelenskyy. “We are here to support you in any way possible.”
Blinken addressed the Ukrainian leader saying “the reason we’re back is because of you, because of the extraordinary courage, leadership and success that you’ve had in pushing back this horrific Russian aggression”.
Before the US officials’ visit, Zelenskyy had petitioned Western leaders for more heavy weapons and supplies that he said were vital for Ukraine to eventually retake Russian-occupied territory.
“As soon as we have [more weapons], as soon as there are enough of them, believe me, we will immediately retake this or that territory, which is temporarily occupied,” he told reporters during a news conference at a metro station in Kyiv.
Zelenskyy added that Western leaders visiting Ukraine should not “come with empty hands” but with the “military assistance we need.”