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Blinken in Ukraine to reaffirm US support as Russia makes rapid advances

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) greets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kiev on May 14, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has paid an unannounced visit to Kiev to reaffirm his country’s support for Ukraine, amid a new Russian operation in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Blinken arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday by overnight train from Poland. 

He met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he claimed that the flow of the weapons will “make a real difference.”

"In the near term, assistance is now on its way and that will make a real difference against the Russian aggression on the battlefield," Blinken told Zelensky at the start of their meeting.

Zelensky, for his part, said that Blinken had come during “a tough period for the east of our country.”

The Ukrainian leader thanked Blinken for the “crucial” $60.8 billion aid package for his country that President Joe Biden signed last month but added that Ukraine was still in need, pointing to the Russian military advances around Kharkiv in recent days.

Russian troops launched the operation against the Kharkiv region on Friday, capturing several villages.

Russia's defense ministry said its troops had "improved the tactical position and dealt a blow to (Ukrainian) manpower" around border villages, including Lyptsi, and the town of Vovchansk.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters aboard the train from Poland that the aim of the trip "is to send a strong signal of reassurance to the Ukrainians who are obviously in a very difficult moment both with grinding battle on the Eastern Front but also with the Russians now expanding some cross-border attacks into Kharkiv."

Blinken’s two-day visit comes just weeks after the US Congress approved the long-delayed $61 billion financial aid package for Ukraine after months of political wrangling.

It's Blinken's fourth trip to Kiev since Russia launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022.

This comes as US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has told reporters a new arms package would be announced "in the coming days."

Russia launched the military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Western countries have responded to the Russian military operation by backing Ukraine with cash and heavy weaponry while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that such a flow of weapons to Kiev will only prolong the conflict.

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