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

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

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference on the day of the Informal Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, Germany, May 15, 2022.
Michele Tantussi | Reuters

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

He 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,” Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in an article co-authored by lawmaker Mykhailo Zabrodskyi and published by the state news agency Ukrinform.

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

Blinken is 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.

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Blinken’s visit comes on the heels of a call last month with 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.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has mocked the West’s response to the war, saying Wednesday that his nation 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 Austin. At the time, Blinken said they weren’t able to visit much of Kyiv or speak to many people due to security concerns.

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