Blinken in Kyiv unveils $2 billion in US military aid to Europe
“We know this is a pivotal moment, more than six months into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as your counter-offensive is now underway and proving effective,” he said. Blinken to Zelenskyi.
Zelenskyy replied: “We are grateful for the signal, for this enormous support you give on a daily basis.”
The White House said Biden was holding a call with allies and partners “to emphasize our continued support for Ukraine.”
The new US military funding adds to a $675 million package of heavy weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles for Ukraine alone, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Thursday at a conference in Ramstein, in Germany.
Pending expected Congressional approval, approximately $1 billion of the $2.2 billion will go to Ukraine and the rest will be split between Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Montenegro. , North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the State Department said.
It will help these countries “deter and defend against emerging threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity” by strengthening their military integration with NATO and countering “Russian influence and aggression”, the Minister said. department.
“This assistance once again demonstrates our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s future as a democratic, sovereign and independent state, as well as the security of allies and partners across the region,” he said. .
Foreign military funding allows recipients to purchase US-made defense equipment, often based on their specific needs.
The package announced by Austin includes howitzers, artillery ammunition, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems and more, intended to help Ukraine meet its short-term needs as it launches a counter-offensive against Russian forces.
Austin said “the war is at another key moment”.
“Now we see the demonstrable success of our common efforts on the battlefield,” he said at a meeting of the Contact Group for the Defense of Ukraine, which was attended by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the Ukrainian Defense Minister, as well as officials from allied countries. countries.
Germany and the Netherlands will provide demining training to Ukrainian soldiers as well as demining equipment, the countries’ defense ministers said on the sidelines of the meeting with Austin. The training will take place in Germany. The two countries previously joined forces to send howitzers to Ukraine.
“The capabilities we provide are carefully calibrated to make the biggest difference on the battlefield,” Blinken said.
Thursday’s contributions bring total US aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since Biden took office. US officials said the new pledges were meant to show that US support for the country in the face of the Russian invasion remains firm.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine was grateful for the “tremendous support” the United States had sent to Ukraine and praised Biden and Congress. He said the United States was helping Ukraine “return our territory and our land.”
The announcements come as fighting between Ukraine and Russia has intensified in recent days, with Ukrainian forces mounting a counteroffensive to retake areas under Russian control.
Ukrainian forces in the northeast Kharkiv region have retaken parts of Russian-held territory as a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south has drained some of Moscow’s resources in the region, according to a report by the think tank based at Washington Institute for the Study of War.
Meanwhile, shelling continued near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe‘s largest, with warring parties once again trading blame amid dire warnings from the UN’s atomic watchdog, which has urged the creation of a safety zone to avoid a disaster.
On Wednesday, the United States accused Moscow of interrogating, detaining and forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia. Russian officials dismissed the allegation calling it “fantasy”.
In Kyiv, before meeting Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken visited the US Embassy and then the Ohmatdyt National Specialized Children’s Hospital, where he saw boys and girls wounded in the Russian shelling, including Maryna, a 6-year-old child from the town. from Kherson who lost a leg after a rocket hit his house.
In the hospital lobby, Blinken also met Patron, a Jack Russell terrier who helped the Ukrainian military find more than 200 mines laid by Russian forces. Blinken knelt down, petted the dog and presented him with treats, saying he was “world famous”.
In one room, Blinken brought a basket of stuffed animals, which the children quickly hung in front of Patron to get his attention.
Blinken told parents that “the spirit of your children sends a very strong message across the world.”
AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee reported from Rzeszow, Poland.