US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has reassured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that Washington will remain by the side of Kiev “for the long haul.”
Austin met with Zelensky in an unannounced visit to Kiev on Monday, when he told the president that the US "will remain with you for the long haul.”
"The message that I bring you today, Mister President, is that the United States of America is with you."
“What happens here in Ukraine – that not only matters to Ukraine but it matters to the rest of the world. It certainly matters to the United States of America.”
And Zelensky said the Pentagon chief’s visit was “an important signal for Ukraine.”
“We count on your support,” the Ukrainian president told Austin.
The trip to the Ukrainian capital is Austin’s second since Russia launched its “special military operation" in Ukraine in February 2022. Ever since, Washington has provided over $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine.
Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged US lawmakers during a hearing last month to sustain support for Ukraine.
Earlier reports, however, said Washington will reduce its military support for Ukraine in 2024, as US officials are increasingly critical of Ukraine’s counteroffensive strategy and tactics.
Ukraine launched its counteroffensive in early June, asking for even more weapons to push south toward the Crimean Peninsula by the end of the year.
Ukrainian forces have for months been struggling to cross the Dnipro River and transport heavy military equipment and supplies, in order to open a new line of attack in the south on the most direct land route to Crimea, which declared independence from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday Ukrainian forces suffered significant losses in the battle on the eastern bank of the river.