US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has travelled to Kiev on an unannounced visit to discuss US military aid with the Ukrainian authorities. Blinken announced a new aid package worth more than $2 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia, according to the Associated Press.
The US diplomat has assured his Ukrainian partners that President Joe Biden has already informed Congress of his intention to provide this funding to Ukraine and 18 other countries that are "at risk of future Russian aggression". The nations to receive financial assistance, in addition to Ukraine, are Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
This assistance will be aimed at "deterring and defending against emerging threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity", as well as countering "Russian influence and aggression". In addition, as the State Department noted, this package "demonstrates once again an unwavering commitment to Ukraine's future as a democratic, sovereign, and independent state, as well as to the security of allies and partners throughout the region".
During his visit to Kiev - the second since the war began - Blinken met with the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba. According to EFE, quoting the Ukrainian news agency Ukrainska Pravda, the Secretary of State is also expected to meet with the President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky.
In addition to the political meetings, Blinken visited the US embassy and the Ohmatdyt children's hospital, where he was able to talk to several children injured by Russian attacks, including a girl from Kherson who lost her leg as a result of shelling.
"The spirit of your children sends a very strong message to the world," Blinken told the children's parents, AP reports. At the health centre, the diplomat was photographed with the famous dog Patron, a Jack Russell terrier that has helped the army locate more than 200 mines laid by Russian troops.
The new aid announced by the US comes on top of another $675 million arms package announced by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group at the US air base in Ramstein, Germany. The military package will send howitzers, artillery ammunition, Humvees, armoured ambulances and anti-tank systems, according to AP.
Austin noted that "the war is at another turning point", referring to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in various parts of the south and east. In the defence secretary's words, these military operations demonstrate "common efforts on the battlefield". "The face of war is changing and so is the mission of this contact group," he added.