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Top US officials head to Ukraine amid Kiev’s call for more weapons

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is due to visit Ukraine's capital of Kiev along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken amid the escalating conflict in the country. (Photo by AP)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Ukraine’s capital of Kiev on Sunday, the country’s president has announced while demanding “powerful weapons.”

“I want us to have heavy powerful weapons,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky declared during a Saturday press conference at a subway station in Kiev as he unveiled the unprecedented visit by Biden administration’s senior national security cabinet members amid an escalating war in the country.

Reporting Zelensky’s announcement of the unexpected visit to Kiev, US media outlets noted, however, that both the US State Department and the Pentagon refused to comment about the upcoming trip.

“I emphasize once again: last week, signals, messages, steps, deadlines, numbers — I am talking all this in relation to weapons from the United States — everything has improved. And I am grateful for this. And we are very much looking forward to this,” Zelensky further underlined.

Boasting about Kiev’s rising military capabilities following the delivery of Western weaponry, the Ukrainian president claimed: “My position as president is: everything that they occupy, we will take it all back. It will not be a matter of eight years, like in 2014, it will be immediately. This is a matter of weapons. If we have enough, we will immediately begin to regain the occupied territory.”

The US military chief will visit Kiev just prior to traveling to Germany next week for a planned summit of 40 NATO and allied nations to discuss ways to continue offering more weapons and other support to Ukraine’s military.

The development comes amid reports that Washington and its mostly European allies have been rushing weapons into Ukraine to counter renewed Russian efforts to liberate the country’s eastern region.

“Having a continuous flow of just supplies and munitions, like ammunition, is critical,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as quoted by the Washington-based The Hill news outlet.

“You know, it’s not very high visibility, it’s not very exciting, but that’s what keeps armies functioning,” he noted.

The Washington Post also cited White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Saturday as saying that the Pentagon chief has pushed European defense ministers “outside their comfort zones” to seal weapons transfers that have had an “enormous” impact in Ukraine.

According to Sullivan, Austin keeps a color-code chart tracking weapons shipments into the war zone, and keeps the president up to date with it.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president further called on other countries to “fight alongside” Kiev against Russia, claiming that nations who choose to remain neutral in the fight are making “the riskiest bet, because you will lose everything.”

Over the past two weeks, the Biden administration has announced $1.2 billion worth of weapons shipments to Ukraine, bringing U.S. military aid to Ukraine to $3.3 billion since the start of the war.

This is while a steady stream of European leaders have reportedly flown to Kiev over the past two weeks to meet with Zelensky to pledge new rounds of weapons and “humanitarian support.”

The trip to Kiev by Austin and Blinken also takes place as Moscow insists that the US is planning provocations to accuse Russian forces of using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Ukraine in an attempt to discredit Moscow’s military operation in the former Soviet state.

Igor Kirillov, the chief of the Russian Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Protection Force, made the remarks at a briefing by the Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense has information about the United States preparing provocations to accuse the Russian Armed Forces of using chemical, biological, or tactical nuclear weapons.”

“In March-April of this year alone, the leadership of Western countries regularly made provocative statements about the possibility of Russia using weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Kirillov said Kiev, at Washington’s instigation, is planning to set in motion at least three scenarios that would lead to the “death of tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens and cause an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.”

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