Blinken makes unannounced trip to Ukraine, will pledge $2.6 billion in security assistance to region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday arrived in Ukraine for an undisclosed trip, his third visit to the country since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

Blinken landed in the country after an overnight flight and met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, just hours after Ukraine’s military chief publicly warned of the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons in the conflict.

“Another factor is the direct threat of the use by Russia, under certain circumstances, of tactical nuclear weapons,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in an article co-authored by lawmaker Mykhailo Zabrodskyi and published by state news agency Ukrinform.

Blinken is expected to announce a $675 million drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine, a senior State Department official confirmed. The 20th drawdown since September 2021, which Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin mentioned in remarks to allies earlier Thursday, will include additional arms, munitions and equipment from U.S. military inventories.

He’s also planning to announce that the State Department will notify Congress that it will make $2 billion available in long-term investments to strengthen the security of Ukraine and 18 other neighboring countries, including many NATO allies, the official said.

“In total, the secretary will announce $2.6 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine and its neighbors today. These announcements will bring the total U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to approximately $15.2 billion since the beginning of this Administration,” the official said.

Blinken’s visit comes on the heels of a call last month with his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in which he reinforced U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense needs. President Joe Biden later announced a $3 billion package to train and equip Ukrainian armed forces.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits a children’s hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday.Emilio Morenatti / AP

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has mocked the West’s response to the war, saying Wednesday that Russia had “not lost anything” amid a host of sanctions that targeted elites and services that helped finance the ongoing invasion.

Ukraine also faces nuclear concerns regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest.

On Wednesday, Ukraine called for the residents of Russian-occupied areas around the power plant to evacuate for their own safety. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the nuclear plant, risking a nuclear disaster.

Blinken’s trip comes roughly four months after he visited Ukraine with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. At the time, Blinken said they weren’t able to visit much of Kyiv or speak to many people due to security concerns.

Abigail Williams contributed.

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