US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday, his third visit to the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022.
The visit comes as Ukraine’s counteroffensive moves into its fourth month. Both political and military leaders in Kyiv are talking up recent gains, particularly in the country’s south, following growing concerns that a coordinated push on the battlefield is not yielding results.
Blinken’s first stop on Wednesday was at a military cemetery, where he laid a wreath in honor of Ukraine’s fallen soldiers. He is then due to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, from whom he is expected to give his first report on Ukraine’s efforts to retake land around the eastern city of Bagmut – the Ukrainian leader visited with his forces there on Tuesday.
A senior State Department official traveling with Blinken told reporters that the visit by Washington’s top diplomat was an opportunity for the United States and Ukraine to align ahead of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) later this month.
“The Ukrainians in New York have an important task to explain to their allies and partners around the world – what is happening and the need for their continued support. It is important that we continue to lead the global effort to support them,” the official said.
“A chance to consult and align before we go to New York is very important.”
While some U.S. officials have privately criticized Ukraine’s counteroffensive strategy, the official would not delve into details other than to say it is time to “come and assess” how the counteroffensive is going.
“We want to see and hear how they intend to move forward in the coming weeks,” the official said, adding that the U.S. “has seen some impressive progress, particularly in the south, but also in the east in recent days and weeks.”
Blinken’s visit comes less than a month after President Joe Biden asked Congress for more than $24 billion to help Ukraine defeat Russia in the ongoing war, and some polls show the American public’s support for continued funding is beginning to soften. The visit will help the administration make the case for continued support to the American people, the official said.
The official, who Biden has made in the past to make an argument for supporting Ukraine, said that “dictators and autocrats can’t bite off a piece of their neighbors and let them live with impunity.”
Blinken is expected to announce more than $1 billion in new U.S. funding for Ukraine during the visit, part of which is new security assistance, the official said. Asked whether the package of new support included depleted-uranium munitions, the official declined to comment after a report that the administration had decided to move forward with the controversial munitions.
Secretary Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday morning after traveling by train from Poland, typical of nearly all high-profile visitors to the war-torn city, including Biden.
Blinken traveled with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in April 2022, weeks after Russian forces immediately withdrew north of the Ukrainian capital. His second visit was in September last year, when Ukraine’s first major counteroffensive was underway in the Kharkiv region.
Blinken briefly visited Ukraine in March 2022 when he met Foreign Minister Kuleba at the border.