Top U.S. diplomat makes a bold show of support for Ukraine in secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv

The United States announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden's secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed a secrecy-shrouded trip to Kyiv.

In Kyiv meeting, Antony Blinken praised Ukraine president's 'extraordinary courage' and pledged fresh aid

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shake hands before a meeting in Kyiv on Sunday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout/Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday after a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky is committed to winning his country's fight against Russia and that the United States will help him achieve that goal.

"He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win," Austin told reporters in Poland, the day after the three-hour face-to-face meeting with Zelensky in Ukraine.

Austin said that the nature of the fight in Ukraine had changed now that Russia has pulled away from the wooded northern regions to focus on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas. Because the nature of the fight has evolved, so have Ukraine's military needs, and Zelensky is now focused on more tanks, artillery and other munitions.

"The first step in winning is believing that you can win," Austin said. "We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we're going to do everything we can ... to ensure that gets to them."

The trip by Blinken and Austin was the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February. They told Zelensky and his advisers that the U.S. would provide more than $300 million US in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million US sale of ammunition.

Blinken and U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin meet with Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday. Later, Blinken said Russia is failing in its war aims and 'Ukraine is succeeding.' (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout/Reuters )

"We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people," Blinken said. "This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail."

Blinken said their meeting with the Ukrainians lasted for three hours for wide-ranging talks, including what help the country needs in the weeks ahead.

"The strategy that we've put in place — massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts — is having real results," Blinken said.

"When it comes to Russia's war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed."

Russia failing in war, says Blinken after Kyiv visit

1 year ago
Duration 1:34
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States is trying to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia, both on the battlefield and eventually 'at a negotiation, if there is one.'

Asked about what the U.S. sees as success, Austin said that "we want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory. We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can't do things like invade Ukraine."

U.S. diplomats to return to Ukraine

They also said Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Brink, a career foreign service officer, has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia. She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan, as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Journalists who travelled with Austin and Blinken to Poland were barred from reporting on the trip until it was over, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey into Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in southeast Poland they met back up with the cabinet members upon their return. Officials at the State Department and the Pentagon cited security concerns.

WATCH | Amid war, Ukraine marks Orthodox Easter: 

Ukraine celebrates Orthodox Easter under cloud of war

1 year ago
Duration 2:30
While many Ukrainians celebrated Orthodox Easter, craving a return to pre-war normalcy, signs of Russia's invasion remained painfully evident across the country.

Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million US in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322 million US is earmarked for Kyiv. The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

Such financing is different from previous U.S. military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down U.S. Defence Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.

The new money, along with the sale of $165 million US in non-U.S.-made ammunition that is compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use, brings the total amount of American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7 billion US since the invasion, officials said.

Biden has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide for the destruction and death wrought on Ukraine. Just on Thursday, Biden said he would provide a new package of $800 million US in military aid to Ukraine that included heavy artillery and drones.

Russian tanks roll along a street in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday. (Alexei Alexandrov/The Associated Press)

Congress approved $6.5 billion US for military assistance last month as part of $13.6 billion US in spending for Ukraine and allies in response to the Russian invasion.

From Poland, Blinken plans to return to Washington while Austin will head to Ramstein, Germany, for a meeting Tuesday of NATO defence ministers and other donor countries.

That discussion will look at battlefield updates from the ground, additional security assistance for Ukraine and longer-term defence needs in Europe, including how to step up military production to fill gaps caused by the war in Ukraine, officials said. More than 20 nations are expected to send representatives to the meeting.