Zelensky Says Blinken and Austin to Visit Ukraine Sunday

Bloomberg — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would visit Kyiv on Sunday, in what would be a risky show of support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion.

“Tomorrow people from the U.S. are coming, I will meet the defense minister and the secretary of state, Mr. Blinken,” Zelensky said in a news conference on Saturday. “I think we will be waiting when security will allow the president of the U.S. to come and support Ukraine’s people.”

It wasn’t clear if Zelensky’s disclosure was cleared with the Biden administration or if it would affect any travel plans. The State Department and the White House National Security Council both declined to comment.

Senior officials of the U.S. government are not allowed to announce their travels to active combat zone until they’re either already there or have left the region.

The visit, if confirmed, would be the first by top U.S. officials to Ukraine’s capital since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24. In March, Blinken briefly met with Ukraine’s foreign minister at the Ukraine-Polish border.

Ukraine Latest: Zelensky Says Blinken, Austin Will Visit Kyiv

Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister), Ursula Von Der Layen, President of the European Commission and other foreign leaders visited Kyiv in support for Ukraine’s government.

These trips put pressure on the U.S. government to arrange a President Joe Biden visit or similar senior-level officials. According to the White House, Biden is not expected to visit war-torn countries.

The war in Ukraine has entered a new phase as Russia shifts its forces to the east and south after failing to take Kyiv or topple Zelensky’s government in the early weeks of the conflict.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin shows no sign of backing down, U.S. allies and European allies continued to intensify sanctions on Moscow as well as accelerate weapons delivery to Ukraine.

Additionally, the peace talks between Russia & Ukraine have ceased and the humanitarian situation is worsening. This week, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine.

Officials in Ukraine say that around 100,000 people remain inside Mariupol port, which Putin claimed is now under Russian control following weeks of devastating fighting.

Russian forces resumed airstrikes in their latest attempt to dislodge Ukrainian fighters holed up at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, Ukrainian presidential spokesman Oleksiy Arestovych said on Saturday.

Biden Restocks Ukraine Arsenal and Buys New Arms As Putin Expands War

Biden pledged $1.3 billion more in economic and weaponry aid this week, on top of the $800 million package that was announced last week. This included additional helicopters, heavy artillery, and for the first-time, heavy artillery. The latest aid shipment will contain dozens of howitzers and 144,000 ammunition for weapons and drones.

According to the U.S. President, he will also request additional funding from Congress to continue shipments to Ukraine of weapons and military equipment. The leaders of Congress said that they will begin to consider the funding package next week.

Zelensky and his aides have repeatedly pressured the U.S. and its Western allies to send more weaponry and ramp up sanctions on Russia in order to weaken Putin’s resolve. Ukraine says it’s already inflicted dramatic losses on Russia’s military, including the sinking of its flagship Black Sea warship last week, and forced Moscow to retreat from an assault on Kyiv.

Russian casualties have been kept secret by the Kremlin. NATO estimates that Russia has lost 15,000 soldiers and had tens of thousand more injured or captured as of last month.

Biden last month visited U.S. troops stationed in Poland about an hour’s drive from the Ukrainian border during a four-day trip to Europe but he did not cross into Ukraine. The reasons he didn’t enter Ukraine were previously mentioned by Biden to security fears of staff.

(Updates with National Security Council No Comment, Paragraph Three)

–With assistance from Peter Martin.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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