Monday, April 25, 2022

US diplomats to return to Ukraine after Blinken visit---US State Department


US diplomats will begin returning to Ukraine this week, the US State Department has said, after secretary of state Antony Blinken and secretary of defense Lloyd Austin returned from a secretive visit to Ukraine to meet president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The top US envoys also promised more $300m in foreign military financing and have approved a $165 million sale of ammunition, according to Associated Press.

The news agency reported:

 They also said Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The US embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Zelenskiy had announced Saturday that he would meet with the US officials in Kyiv on Sunday, but the Biden administration refused to confirm that and declined to discuss details of a possible visit even though planning had been underway for more than a week.

Journalists who traveled with Austin and Blinken to Poland were barred from reporting on the trip until it was over, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey into Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in southeast Poland they waited for the cabinet members to return. Officials at the State Department and the Pentagon cited security concerns.

Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv. The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

Such financing is different from previous US military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down US Defense Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.

The new money, along with the sale of $165 million in non-US made ammunition that is compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use, brings the total amount of American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7 billion since the invasion, officials said.

Zelenskiy had urged the Americans not to come empty-handed. US officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help. New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained on its use in neighboring countries, the officials said.

On the diplomatic front, Blinken told Zelenskiy that Biden will announce his nomination of veteran diplomat Bridget Brink to be the next US ambassador to Ukraine.

A career foreign service officer, Brink has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia. She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requirements confirmation by the US Senate.

Blinken also told Ukraine’s foreign minister that the small staff from the now-shuttered US embassy in Kyiv, which has relocated to Poland from temporary offices in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, would begin making day trips to Lviv in the coming days.


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