Blinken on an unannounced visit to Ukraine

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has arrived in Kiev on an unannounced visit. His purpose is to reassure Ukrainians that the US continues to support them and provide them with weapons as Russia ravages the northeastern Kharkiv region. 

During his fourth visit to Kiev since the Russian invasion began in February 2022. Blinken arrived by overnight train from Poland and was due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The visit comes just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a $61 billion financial aid package for Ukraine after months of political wrangling, providing much-needed weapons for the country's overstretched troops.

The aid is expected to flow at an accelerated pace as Washington tries to make up for months lost while Congress struggled to agree on the aid.

"First and foremost, this trip is intended to send a strong signal of reassurance to the Ukrainians, who are obviously having a very difficult time, both with the battle on the Eastern Front escalating and with the Russians now expanding some cross-border attacks into Kharkiv," a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters on the train.

In particular, the minister intends to detail how US aid "will be executed in a way that will help strengthen their defences and allow them to increasingly take back the initiative on the battlefield".

The last visit by a senior US official was in March, when National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan went to Ukraine.

Russia "is clearly throwing everything it has into the east, and the expansion of the fighting to Kharkiv is indicative of that strategy," the official said.

"But we have great confidence that the Ukrainians will be increasingly effective in pushing back the Russians as help comes from the United States as well as other allies and partners."

In addition to the talks with Zelensky, Blinken is expected to meet with his counterpart Dmitry Kuleba, as well as members of civil society, and to deliver a speech on Ukraine's "strategic success."

Also up for discussion is the bilateral defence agreement the US hopes to conclude before the NATO summit in Washington in July.

"Negotiations are in their final stages, we are very close," the US official said./BGNES