Zelenskiy lauds U.S. aid package, asks Blinken for air defences

By Thomson Reuters May 14, 2024 | 3:43 AM

KYIV (Reuters) – A new U.S. weapons package is going to have an impact on the battlefield in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, visiting Kyiv at a time when Ukrainian forces have faced setbacks at the front after a long delay in U.S. aid.

Washington finally passed a bill in late April to provide military aid to Ukraine, held up for months by opposition from some Republicans in the U.S. Congress while Russian forces took advantage of their superior firepower to launch an offensive.

“…In the near term the assistance is now on the way, some of it has already arrived and more of it will be arriving,” said Blinken, during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “And that’s going to make a real difference against the ongoing Russian aggression on the battlefield.”

Zelenskiy lauded the “crucial” U.S. aid, and thanked Washington for bipartisan support.

He said Ukraine’s biggest deficit for now was in air defence, telling Blinken Kyiv needs two Patriot air defence batteries for the northeastern region of Kharkiv, being pummelled by Russian air strikes.

“Civilians, warriors, everybody — they are under Russian missiles,” Zelenskiy said.

The Ukrainian president said he also wanted to discuss security guarantees with the U.S., in addition to asking Blinken to rally support from more countries at an upcoming high-level peace summit set to take place in Switzerland in June.

Ukraine repelled Russian troops from the outskirts of Kyiv and seized back swathes of occupied land in the first year following Russia’s 2022 invasion.

But a counter-offensive launched in 2023 fizzled, and recent months have seen Moscow make slow but steady gains at the front. Kyiv says it hopes renewed commitments of Western arms will allow it to reclaim the initiative on the battlefield and recapture some of the fifth of its territory still occupied by Russia.

“We’re equally determined that over time, Ukraine stands strongly on its own feet: militarily, economically, democratically,” said Blinken. “A strong, successful, thriving, free Ukraine is the best possible rebuke to Putin.”

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Writing by Anastasiia Malenko; Editing by Peter Graff)