Blinken in Ukraine for unannounced visit

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the capital of Ukraine on Wednesday in an unannounced visit just hours after the city was struck by a Russian missile attack.

Blinken’s trip to Kyiv is meant to show the United States’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, territorial integrity and democracy,” according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. 

While in Ukraine, the secretary will meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to talk about the country’s counteroffensive in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

“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 to make sure that it has a strong deterrent,” Blinken said during the visit. “We’re also determined to continue to work with our partners as they build and rebuild a strong economy, strong democracy.”

This is Blinken’s fourth trip to Ukraine since Russia invaded in March 2022, but it will be the first time a U.S. official has stayed overnight in Kyiv since the war started. U.S. officials told The Associated Press that Blinken’s overnight trip is meant to symbolize support for Ukraine.

A senior official in the State Department — who was speaking to reporters on the protocol of anonymity — said Blinken is also looking to learn about what kind of support is needed in the current state of the war. He is also expected to announce new military aid for Ukraine that is between $175 million and $200 million, the AP noted.

This comes as Ukrainian lawmakers approved Zelensky’s nomination for a defense minister, Rustem Umerov. The visit also comes after Russia launched cruise missiles at Kyiv — which the head of the capital city’s regional military administration Serhii Popko said is the first aerial attack on the city since last week.

Before arriving in Ukraine, Blinken met with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to thank Denmark for donating F-16 jets for Ukraine and the nation’s partnership in the program training Ukrainian pilots.

Ukraine has celebrated the U.S.-led decision to move forward on providing advanced warplanes for its air force, even as delivery and operation are not expected to occur for months.

Ukrainians are carrying out a slow-moving and brutal counteroffensive against Russia without the benefit of air superiority, making efforts to advance extremely dangerous under the threat of Russian missile attacks. 

Still, the Ukrainian army has appeared to make significant gains in recent days in the south of the country, with threatening Russian positions in the occupied Crimean peninsula viewed as a key goal in gaining battlefield leverage. 

Laura Kelly and The Associated Press contributed.

Updated at 8:32 a.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Denys Shmyhal Dmytro Kuleba Matthew Miller russia Russia-Ukraine war Rustem Umerov Serhii Popko ukraine Ukraine counteroffensive Volodymyr Zelensky