In Kyiv, Blinken and Austin met with Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dimitro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and Interior Minister Denis Monastrsky for an extended, nearly 90-minute bilateral meeting, a senior State Department official said.
During the visit, Blinken said US diplomats would return to Ukraine this week, a senior State Department official said, marking the move as a strong message of solidarity from the United States.
Both officers briefed the press who had traveled to the area shortly before Blinken and Austin arrived in Kyiv; The traveling US press corps did not travel with the secretaries to the Ukrainian capital.
A senior State Department official said they also discussed the diplomatic efforts Ukrainians are making with the Russians.
At the background briefing, officials clarified that the US military would still not be directly involved in the war.
“The president is very clear that there will be no American troops fighting in Ukraine, and that includes the skies over Ukraine,” the defense official said.
While officials hailed the visit as a testament to US commitment to Ukraine, they also faced questions about why Biden himself did not make the trip.
The State Department official said, “The President of the United States is somewhat eccentric about what the visit would require. So it goes far beyond what a Cabinet Secretary or any other world leader would require.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the country earlier this month. Top officials from the European Union and the Baltic countries have also visited Zelensky in Kyiv.
The senior State Department official said that as part of resuming US diplomatic presence in Ukraine, diplomats would “start with day trips to Lviv” and “potentially graduate to other parts of the country and eventually to Kyiv.” Will resume attendance.”
The defense official said Blinken and Austin’s visit will serve as the first tranche of about 50 Ukrainians completing artillery training in a country outside Ukraine. The defense official said another tranche of about 50 Ukrainians would also start training soon.
“The first phase of artillery training is complete,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Sunday. “We train soldiers who will go back, and their allies to be able to walk the system and follow everyone.”
The defense official said some of the howitzers included in the most recent military aid package for Ukraine are already in the country. Kirby said the howitzer is expected to be effective at this stage of the war as it has been moved to the Donbass, where the terrain is favorable for “long-range” weapons.
Kirby noted the speed with which military aid shipments have arrived in Ukraine and said it is up to Ukrainians to decide how to deploy the aid.
“It’s not going to take more than 24 to 48 hours depending on what’s being shipped and the availability of ground transport to bring it to Ukraine,” Kirby said. “As we have said before, when (assistance) is transferred to Ukrainian hands, it is Ukrainian property, and we are not judging them how fast they get it on the front lines or which Units get them.”
Military officials told reporters about the ongoing concern among NATO countries about the threat Russia poses to them.
“Not only here in Poland, I think many countries are concerned about Russia’s next steps,” said Lieutenant General John Stefan Kolaszewski, commanding general of V Corps in Poland. “And very happy to be here working side by side with the US military – helping to develop their capabilities and potential. … I think they are recognizing that Russia is in the present and a future in the future.” There will be danger.”
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