Antony Blinken makes an unannounced visit to Ukraine, will announce more aid : NPR

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks with Marina, 6, from Ukraine’s Kherson region, during his visit to a children’s hospital in Kyiv on Thursday.

Genya Savilov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images


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Genya Savilov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks with Marina, 6, from Ukraine’s Kherson region, during his visit to a children’s hospital in Kyiv on Thursday.

Genya Savilov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

KYIV, Ukraine — Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Kyiv on Thursday, where he is expected to announce billions of dollars more financial aid to help Ukraine in Russia’s invasion.

This is Blinken’s second trip to the Ukrainian capital since this year’s conflict began in February. He is the highest-ranking official in the Biden administration to visit the country in over six months of conflict.

After arriving in Kyiv early Thursday, Blinken met with US Embassy staff and visited Ohmatdyt children’s hospital, where he met with doctors, children who had come from eastern Ukraine and “Patron” the famous bomb-sniffing dog.

Blinken also met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in the afternoon.

Later in the day, the secretary of state is expected to announce that the Biden plans to ask Congress to make another $2 billion administration available for long-term investments in security in Ukraine and neighboring countries, many of which are NATO allies that face the risk of future Russian aggression, State Department officials tell NPR.

He is also expected to give more details about $675 million in military aid announced earlier Thursday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is in Germany at a meeting with defense counterparts from around the world.

The aid, which is part of President Biden’s presidential drawdown authority, is set to include more High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), as well as more munitions and armed vehicles, according to the State Department.

This latest tranche will bring total security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale ground invasion on Feb. 24 to $13.5 billion.

Blinken’s trip, six months into the conflict, is meant to show that the US is “fully committed to Ukraine,” according to State Department officials.

His trip to Ukraine comes at a crucial time.

Concerns continue to mount over the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March but operated by Ukrainian staff.

A report released this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that shelling has compromised the physical integrity of the plant and that working conditions for the staff are tenuous, among other findings that experts say could lead to human error and, potentially, a nuclear disaster. .

Both the Biden administration and the United Nations have called on the Russians to demilitarize the complex.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are engaged in a counteroffensive in the east and southern part of the country — one that Kyiv says is going successfully, albeit slowly.

Meanwhile, Blinken’s aides say he is also gearing up for the United Nations General Assembly, which takes place later this month. Russia’s war in Ukraine and the ripple effects in global food and energy markets are set to be major themes this year.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion in February, the US has promised billions of dollars in military and budgetary aid to Ukraine, including a $40 billion aid package passed by Congress in May. Millions of aid has already been dispersed. At the six-month mark of the conflict, polling showed that a majority of Americans believe the US should continue to support Ukraine in the war.

Michele Kelemen contributed reporting from Washington, DC

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