Blinken Vows to Give Ukraine What It Needs for Offensive

The US will ensure Ukraine is equipped to defeat Russia and rebuild its economy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Kyiv to show support as its forces press ahead with a grinding counteroffensive.

(Bloomberg) — The US will ensure Ukraine is equipped to defeat Russia and rebuild its economy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Kyiv to show support as its forces press ahead with a grinding counteroffensive. 

The top US diplomat met Ukraine’s foreign minister before speaking with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other officials as the country’s military tries to expand gains in its months-long campaign over the course of the summer.

Blinken stopped in Kyiv en route to the Group of 20 summit in India, where Russia’s invasion of its neighbor will be a major topic, though President Vladimir Putin won’t be attending. It also gives the US an opportunity to consult before this month’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, where Ukraine will press its case to its allies for continued economic and military backing.

“We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs, not only to succeed in the counteroffensive, but has what it needs for the long term,” Blinken said in Kyiv after meeting Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “We’re also determined to continue to work with our partners as they build and rebuild a strong economy, strong democracy.”

As the US envoy was meeting officials, Ukrainian officials said Russia had killed 17 people and injured 32 in an artillery strike on a market street in the eastern town of Kostyantynivka, about 31 miles north of occupied Donetsk.

The secretary is expected to announce more than $1 billion in new US funding for Ukraine and will focus his trip on hearing from Ukrainian officials about the ongoing counteroffensive and what they need to reinvigorate their economy, according to a senior State Department official, who briefed a traveling reporter on the way into Ukraine.

During the journey, Blinken also met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who was also visiting Zelenskiy, and thanked her for Denmark’s pledge to donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine and train pilots, the State Department said.

It’s Blinken’s fourth visit to Ukraine since the war began. On trips to Kyiv last year, the US announced fresh commitments or details, with total US security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022 reaching $43.1 billion as of August.

The visit also comes as Zelenskiy has escalated a crackdown on corruption, which remains a major concern for allies as they continue to pour weapons and cash into Ukraine.

It’s not clear whether Blinken will also meet with Rustem Umerov, who Zelenskiy named to replace Oleksii Reznikov as the country’s defense minister following allegations of graft in military procurement by subordinates. Blinken met with Reznikov when he visited Kyiv in April of last year.

This week, Zelenskiy visited troops on Ukraine’s eastern front as his military reported more advances in the south, with the counteroffensive punching through the first two of Russia’s three major defensive lines.

“We’ve seen good progress in the counteroffensive,” Blinken said. “It’s very heartening.”

At the same time, Moscow continued its assault on its neighbor’s civilian infrastructure, killing at least one person and damaging a grain terminal in the Ukrainian Danube port of Izmail, according to the region’s governor.

Putin, meanwhile, is set to have a rare meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Russia’s Far East, as the US warns that Moscow is seeking more arms to fuel its war in Ukraine.

US Assistant Secretary for energy Geoffrey Pyatt, speaking at the Three Seas Initiative forum in Bucharest, said Europe must work together to end energy reliance on Russia.

“The job of the US administration is to make sure that Russia will never be considered a reliable energy supplier for Europe again,” he said. “The war has turned the US into the largest gas exporter in the world, and I think this will continue for many years to come.” 

–With assistance from Andra Timu, Kevin Whitelaw and Larry Liebert.

(Updates with artillery casualties in fifth paragraph.)

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