US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a previously unannounced two-day tour to Ukraine, amid reports that Western powers are unsatisfied with the results of Kiev’s counteroffensive against Russia.
Blinken arrived in Ukraine by train on Wednesday in the first such visit by a top US official since the military push against Russia was launched in early June. His Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, posted an image of them visiting a Ukrainian military cemetery.
“We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs not only to succeed on the counteroffensive, but [also] in the long term,” the US official said later in the morning, speaking to journalists alongside Kuleba.
Earlier a State Department official, who briefed journalists about the trip, said the secretary would likely announce a new $1 billion assistance package, Reuters reported. The top US diplomat will also hear what the Ukrainian leadership has to say about the battlefield situation and the country’s preparedness for winter, the source was cited as saying.
“We want to see, hear, how they intend to push forward in the coming weeks,” the anonymous official said, describing the latest Ukrainian advances in the south as “impressive.”
The White House has so far refrained from publicly criticizing the Ukrainian government for the way it conducts its operations, but multiple reports in the US media have pointed to frustration in Washington over Kiev’s tactics. The Pentagon reportedly advised Kiev to stop spreading its forces along the frontline and to concentrate them for a decisive assault near the village of Rabotino in Zaporozhye Region.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported this week that Kiev had suffered “colossal” losses during the summer campaign, including more than 66,000 troops and over 7,600 heavy weapons.
The latter category included a UK-made Challenger 2 main battle tank, apparently destroyed this week, which was the first-ever vehicle of its type lost to enemy fire. The armor was reportedly hit near Rabotino, and belonged to an elite brigade, which received four of the 14 tanks supplied by London.
President Vladimir Zelensky announced last Sunday that he wanted to replace the defense minister, and received parliament’s approval on Tuesday. The Ukrainian military has been mired in several corruption scandals in recent months, and has been criticized for its heavy-handed approach to conscripting new recruits.
Meanwhile, there has been increased pushback on Capitol Hill against maintaining US assistance to Ukraine at current levels. Members of the Republican Party have also called for increased oversight of the aid, due to possible graft.
Last month, US President Joe Biden asked Congress to authorize $24 billion in additional spending related to Ukraine.