Blinken in Kyiv unveils $2 billion in US military aid to Europe | National Policy

By MATTHEW LEE and KARL RITTER – Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unscheduled visit to Kyiv on Thursday as the Biden administration announced major new military aid worth more than $2 billion for the Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

In meetings with senior Ukrainian officials, Blinken said the Biden administration informed Congress of its intention to provide $2 billion in long-term foreign military funding to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors, including NATO members and regional security partners, who are “most potentially at risk from future Russian aggression.”

Pending the expected Congressional approval, approximately $1 billion will go to Ukraine and the rest will be split between Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the State Department said.

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It will help these countries “deter and defend against emerging threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity” by strengthening their military integration with NATO and countering “Russian influence and aggression”, the minister said. department.

“This assistance once again demonstrates our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s future as a democratic, sovereign and independent state, as well as the security of allies and partners across the region,” he said. .

Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, allows recipients to purchase US-made defense equipment, often based on their specific needs.

The funding is in addition to a $675 million package of heavy weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles for Ukraine alone, announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a conference in Ramstein, Germany.

This package includes howitzers, artillery ammunition, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems and more.

Austin said “the war is at another key moment” as Ukrainian forces begin their counteroffensive in the south of the country. He said “we are now seeing the demonstrable success of our joint efforts on the battlefield”.

“The face of war is changing, and so is the mission of this contact group,” Austin said at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, which was attended by the Secretary General of Ukraine. NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the Ukrainian Defense Minister, as well as officials from allied countries. countries.

Germany and the Netherlands will provide demining training to Ukrainian soldiers as well as demining equipment, the countries’ defense ministers said on the sidelines of the meeting with Austin. The training will take place in Germany. The two countries previously joined forces to send howitzers to Ukraine.

Thursday’s contributions bring total US aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since Biden took office. US officials said the new pledges were meant to show that US support for the country in the face of the Russian invasion is unwavering.

The announcements come as fighting between Ukraine and Russia has intensified in recent days, with Ukrainian forces staging a counteroffensive to retake areas under Russian control in the south and east.

Shelling continued near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.

On Wednesday, the United States accused Moscow of interrogating, detaining and forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia. Russian officials immediately dismissed the allegation calling it “fantasy”.

In Kyiv, before meeting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken visited the US Embassy and then the Ohmatdyt National Specialized Children’s Hospital, where he saw boys and girls injured in the Russian bombings, including Maryna, a 6-year-old girl from the city of Kherson. who lost a leg after a rocket hit his house.

In the hospital lobby, Blinken also met “Patron”, a Jack Russell terrier who helped the Ukrainian military find over 200 mines laid by Russian forces. Blinken knelt down, petted the dog and presented him with treats, saying the dog was “world famous”.

In one room, Blinken brought a basket of stuffed animals, which the children quickly hung in front of Patron to get his attention.

Blinken told parents that “the spirit of your children sends a very strong message across the world.”

AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee reported from Rzeszow, Poland.

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