Zelensky Announces Blinken & Austin To Visit Ukraine On Sunday
The Ukrainian president announced Saturday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are set to travel to Ukraine, in what will be the highest ranking American officials to visit the war-torn country since Russia’s Feb.24 invasion.
“I don’t think that this is a big secret. The people from the U.S. are coming to us tomorrow. I shall … meeting with the State Secretary Mr. Blinken and the Defense secretary who are coming to us,” Volodymyr Zelensky said to reporters during a briefing.
The Sunday trip comes on the occasion of Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Easter (or Pascha), and also after there has been some degree of pressure for President Biden to go in person, after Boris Johnson’s recent surprise visit to Kiev.
And of course Zelensky immediately raised the issue of more weapons: “Tomorrow we will be discussing the list of weapons which we need,” he added in his comments to reporters.
The Ukrainian leader was referencing the $800 million in military aid package that the White House just approved, and there are reports of even more to come. Fox News reviews that:
The U.S. has provided over $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since August 2021 – $3.4 billion of which has been allotted since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February invasion.
As for the question of Biden making the trip himself, which would come with significant security risks and preparation, Zelensky said in the Saturday comments: “We will be waiting for the time when the security situation will allow the president of the US to come and to talk to us.”
According to The Hill, neither the Pentagon nor State Department provided immediate comment on Zelensky’s revealing that the Pentagon chief and Secretary of State is traveling to Ukraine, likely given the high stakes difficult security environment.
A week ago White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to shut the door on the possibility that Biden could go to Ukraine. Speaking of Boris Johnson’s trip, she had explained that the UK prime minister “took an eight-hour train through a war zone to get to the middle of Ukraine” – and continued: “So no, that is not in the plans for the president of the United States.” Psaki added: “We should all be maybe relieved about that.”
Sat, 04/23/2022 – 18:00