US diplomats’ return to Ukraine, military aid among issues Blinken, Austin discussed with Zelenskyy
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US diplomats will return to Ukraine this week and the US will announce more military aid to Ukraine after a high-profile meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and others in Kyiv on Sunday, according to Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin , who traveled with the US delegation.
“It was a very productive meeting, very engaging session, and we were very happy to have that opportunity,” Austin said at a news conference early Monday. “We expressed our deepest condolences to the president for the loss of so many civilians” and for the loss of troops. He said US officials discussed with Zelenskyy what will “enable us to win the current fight and also build for tomorrow.”
Blinken said the battle for Kyiv is won and that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a failure when measured by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s original goal, to “fully subsume Ukraine into Russia.”
The meeting with Blinken, Austin, and Zelenskyy also included Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, Ambassador Oksana Makarova, General Valerii Zaluzhny, head of presidential administration Andrii Yermak, and presidential aide Andrii Sybiyha.
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Secretary Austin brought Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense, and Lt. Gen. Randy George, his senior military aide. Tom Sullivan, deputy chief of staff for policy at State and the brother of Jake Sullivan, accompanied Blinken.
President Biden will announce at 7 am Eastern Monday that he is nominating a new ambassador to Ukraine: Bridget Brink. Brink, the current US Ambassador to Slovakia, has decades of experience in the region, having previously served as deputy chief of mission in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
A senior US Defense and State Department official told Fox News that the diplomats addressed the following issues.
Blinken will announce that US Embassy officials will return to Ukraine this week, starting with day trips to Lviv and graduating to overnight, with the goal of returning to Kyiv as soon as possible. Blinken discussed this plan with Zelenskyy Sunday, sending a strong message of solidarity with the embattled country.
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Blinken will also announce $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 other US allies, with $322 million to Ukraine, enabling the country to buy off-the-shelf weapons and ammunition from other countries that may have older non-standard (often Soviet made) weapons and ammunition that Ukrainians know how to use.
After the Zelenskyy meeting, Austin will announce that the six-day training of the first tranche of 50 Ukrainian artillerymen is wrapping up and the next set of soldiers begin training after that. The training is taking place outside Ukraine in another European host nation that wishes to remain anonymous. US military officials are training Ukrainians on how to use 155 mm Howitzers, training soldiers who will turn train other soldiers. Austin will also announce that the first 18 Howitzers are now in Ukraine, with another 7 currently being prepped for transit and another 72 to be sent in another package soon.
Twenty-plus defense ministers and chiefs of defense will meet with Austin and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley in Ramstein, Germany, on Tuesday, April 26, about how to increase aid to Ukraine. The Ukrainian defense minister, Reznikov, will attend that meeting, as will NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“For all the Russian claims that they have control of Mariupol, they are not acting like an army that has control of Mariupol,” a senior US Defense official told Fox News.
Reporters who were traveling with Blinken and Austin, including Fox News’ own Jennifer Griffin, had to wait in Poland on the Ukrainian border due to security concerns, but they spoke to US commanders on the ground there about the situation.
Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, the commander of V Corps, told Fox News that his corps is working with NATO partners to set up battle groups in all the NATO eastern front nations from Estonia to Bulgaria.
“Not just here in Poland, I think many of the countries are concerned about Russia’s next steps, and are very pleased to have the US military here working side by side helping them develop their capabilities and capacity,” Kolasheski said. “Collectively us and them, our lethality, and so I think they are recognizing that Russia is currently and will be a threat in the future.”
Maj. Gen. Chris LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne who is commanding 4,700 soldiers in Poland attached to the Polish 18th Mechanized Brigade, told Fox News that every Polish military family is hosting a Ukrainian family.
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“It’s actually an honor to be paired with them,” LaNeve said. “I’ll tell you, I think some day when we can all look back and look back on what the Polish Army and the Polish people have done, almost every military member that I talk to in the Polish Army, in this area, has a Ukrainian family living with them.”
“They’ve opened up their arms to people they never met before, they are living with them, sharing bread, they are very committed to helping,” the general added. “And for me, it has been awe-inspiring to see and be part of.”