Blinken pledges $2 billion in US military aid to Europe

KYIV, Ukraine — U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made an unscheduled visit to Kyiv on Thursday as the Biden administration announced major new military aid worth more than $2 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

In meetings with senior Ukrainian officials, Blinken said the Biden administration would provide $2 billion in long-term foreign military funding to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors, including NATO members and regional security partners, “potentially at risk of future Russian aggression.”

That’s in addition to a $675 million package of heavy weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles for Ukraine alone that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced earlier Thursday at a conference in Ramstein, Germany. This pack includes howitzers, artillery ammunition, Humvees, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems and more.

Austin said “the war is at another pivotal moment” as Ukrainian forces begin their counteroffensive in the south of the country. He said that “we are now seeing the obvious success of our joint efforts on the battlefield.”

“The face of war is changing and so is the mission of this contact group,” Austin said at a meeting of the Defense Contact Group on Ukraine, which was attended by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukraine’s defense minister, as well as officials from allied countries .

Thursday’s installments bring total U.S. aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since Biden took office. US officials said the new commitments were meant to show that US support for the country in the face of Russia’s invasion was unwavering.

The announcements come as fighting between Ukraine and Russia has intensified in recent days, with Ukrainian forces launching a counteroffensive to retake Russian-held areas in the south and east.

Shelling continued near Ukraine’s Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, with the warring parties again shifting blame amid dire warnings from the UN nuclear watchdog to set up a safe zone to prevent a disaster.

On Wednesday, the US accused Moscow of interrogating, detaining and forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia. Russian officials immediately dismissed the claim as “fantasy.”

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AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee reported from Rzeszow, Poland.

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