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The United States pledged new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden‘s secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed a secret trip to Kyiv. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with President Volodomyr Zelensky Sunday night in the highest-ranking visit by a U.S. delegation to the war-torn nation since Russia began its invasion 60 days ago.

During their visit, Blinken and Austin pledged new assistance, including military financing and ammunition, worth $713million for Zelensky’s government and countries in the region.

The secretaries also revealed that Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. 

However, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment, unlike the British Embassy which UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Saturday night to reopen.

The United States pledged new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation on Sunday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured at a press conference in Kyiv on Saturday

The United States pledged new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation on Sunday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured at a press conference in Kyiv on Saturday

The United States pledged new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation on Sunday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured at a press conference in Kyiv on Saturday

During Sunday's meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin revealed US diplomats would gradually return to Ukraine. However, the US Embassy in Kyiv (pictured in January 2022) will remain closed for the moment

During Sunday's meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin revealed US diplomats would gradually return to Ukraine. However, the US Embassy in Kyiv (pictured in January 2022) will remain closed for the moment

During Sunday’s meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin revealed US diplomats would gradually return to Ukraine. However, the US Embassy in Kyiv (pictured in January 2022) will remain closed for the moment

Blinken and Austin promised Zelensky more than $322million in new foreign military financing for Ukraine after the president had urged the Americans not to come to Sunday’s meeting empty-handed.

‘It will provide support for capabilities Ukraine needs, especially the fight in the Donbas,’ the official noted. ‘This assistance will also help Ukraine’s armed forces transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems, essentially NATO capable systems.’

Nearly $400 million in new foreign military financing will also go to 15 other nations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Such financing is different from previous U.S. military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down U.S. Defense Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.

The new money, along with the sale of $165million in non-U.S. made ammunition that is compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use, brings the total amount of American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7billion since the invasion.

New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained on its use in neighboring countries, the officials said.

More than 50 Ukrainians are set to complete training on Monday to operate the heavy artillery that Washington has begun sending to Ukraine in recent weeks.

Biden (pictured Friday) will formally nominate an U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on Monday, a post that had remained vacant for more than two years

Biden (pictured Friday) will formally nominate an U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on Monday, a post that had remained vacant for more than two years

Biden (pictured Friday) will formally nominate an U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on Monday, a post that had remained vacant for more than two years

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured boarding a plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Saturday) and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured) also pledged new assistance worth $713million for Zelensky's government and countries in the region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured boarding a plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Saturday) and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured) also pledged new assistance worth $713million for Zelensky's government and countries in the region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (pictured boarding a plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Saturday) and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured) also pledged new assistance worth $713million for Zelensky’s government and countries in the region

The visit also revealed that U.S. diplomats will gradually return to Kyiv by initially resume ‘day trips’ across the border to Lviv in the coming week.

Officials are accelerating planning to return to the Kyiv mission, the State Department official said.

‘There’s no substitute for that face-to-face engagement, and of course there is a symbolism to being back in the country,’ said the official, who briefed reporters in Poland on condition of anonymity.

U.S. diplomats departed the Kyiv embassy nearly two weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion, moving some functions to the western city of Lviv before eventually relocating to Poland. 

The official also said that on Monday Biden will formally nominate Bridget Brink, currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a post that had remained vacant for more than two years.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (left), US Army lieutenant general John Kolasheski (center) and US Army Major General Christopher LaNeve (right) are pictured speaking with reporters in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Sunday

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (left), US Army lieutenant general John Kolasheski (center) and US Army Major General Christopher LaNeve (right) are pictured speaking with reporters in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Sunday

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (left), US Army lieutenant general John Kolasheski (center) and US Army Major General Christopher LaNeve (right) are pictured speaking with reporters in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Sunday

Blinken and Austin traveled to Poland on Saturday then overland into Ukraine on Sunday, where they met with Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials, a senior State Department official said, declining to discuss in detail their travel or security arrangements.

Zelensky announced the trip himself during a news conference on Saturday, which U.S. officials said was a contingency they had planned for and did not derail the visit.

Blinken and Austin were expected to have met for about 90 minutes with Zelensky, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and other officials.  

Officials declined requests from the media to accompany the secretaries into Ukraine, citing security concerns. The officials briefed reporters in Poland on condition the trip not be reported until the delegation was safely out of Ukraine.

Austin will travel on to Germany, where he will host counterparts from more than 20 nations and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the U.S. air base at Ramstein to discuss Ukraine’s defense needs, a Pentagon official said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (right) is pictured with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during an arrival ceremony at the Pentagon on April 21, 2022

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (right) is pictured with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during an arrival ceremony at the Pentagon on April 21, 2022

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (right) is pictured with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal during an arrival ceremony at the Pentagon on April 21, 2022

A plane carrying U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin taxis for takeoff at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday

A plane carrying U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin taxis for takeoff at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday

A plane carrying U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin taxis for takeoff at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday

The visit was designed to show Western support for Ukraine, where Russia’s invasion has raised fears of further aggression by Moscow. 

It also highlighted the shift in the conflict since Ukrainian forces, armed with a massive influx of weapons from the West, successfully repelled a Russian assault on Kyiv.

Russian forces have regrouped to try to capture more territory in the southeastern Donbas region, letting foreign leaders visit the capital and some Western nations resume their diplomatic presence in recent weeks, but Washington has been cautious about a return amid sporadic Russian missile attacks in the west.

Ahead of the visit, Blinken spoke with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday to coordinate on the U.N. chief’s visits to Moscow and Kyiv.

Sunday's visit also came one day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to reopen the British Embassy in Kyiv. The embassy is pictured in January 2022

Sunday's visit also came one day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to reopen the British Embassy in Kyiv. The embassy is pictured in January 2022

Sunday’s visit also came one day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to reopen the British Embassy in Kyiv. The embassy is pictured in January 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured shaking hands with President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 9, 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured shaking hands with President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 9, 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured shaking hands with President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 9, 2022

Sunday’s visit also came one day after Boris Johnson vowed to reopen the UK’s embassy in Kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian capital. 

In a series of tweets Saturday, the prime minister also said Britain will provide the country with ‘further military aid’, including armored vehicles. 

The Conservative leader then warned Vladimir Putin‘s regime that his government will be collecting evidence on potential ‘war crimes’, saying Russia must be ‘held to account’. 

He wrote: ‘Today I spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa to update him on the latest steps the UK is taking to support Ukraine.

‘We are providing further military aid, including protected mobility vehicles. We have issued new sanctions against members of the Russian military. 

‘We will be reopening our embassy in Kyiv, demonstrating our solidarity with the Ukrainian people. 

‘And the UK government is helping to collect evidence of war crimes. 

‘Russia must be held to account for its actions.’

Boris Johnson vowed to re-open the UK embassy in Kyiv while warning Putin his regime will be held to account in a series of tweets on Saturday evening

Boris Johnson vowed to re-open the UK embassy in Kyiv while warning Putin his regime will be held to account in a series of tweets on Saturday evening

Boris Johnson vowed to re-open the UK embassy in Kyiv while warning Putin his regime will be held to account in a series of tweets on Saturday evening 

Johnson’s voice of support came just hours after Putin launched a search for British SAS forces alleged to be fighting in Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s Investigative Committee (IC) said Saturday it was investigating British special forces who are thought to be in the western Lviv region.

Putin’s personal CIA said it will look into ‘the facts of the activities of British SAS saboteurs in Ukrainian regions,’ according to state-controlled outlet RIA Novosti.   

The IC claimed that ‘at least two groups of specialists in sabotage and guerrilla warfare from the British Special Air Service (SAS) have been sent to the Lviv region’.

An IC source claimed SAS operatives in Ukraine ‘are specialists in sabotage and partisan activities, recruiting and training agents to work in hostile territory’.

Russia appears to base its investigation on information allegedly received from captured Ukrainian troops.

The SAS is ‘considered one of the most highly qualified in the world in organizing coups d’etat, mass protest rallies, contract killings of political figures, recruiting agents, including those in the highest echelons of power, and preparing terrorist attacks’, said the RIA Novosti report.

‘This is no ordinary special force – these are intellectuals, in each group there is always an ideologist, you can say a professor, and the rest are particular specialists,’ said a Russian law enforcement source.

The report claimed that the SAS often work in war zones under cover of medical workers.

‘With a high degree of probability, these specialists arrived in order to improve the skills and efficiency of the Ukrainian special services in coordinating the activities of sabotage groups in the territories of Ukraine controlled by Russian troops,’ said the IC source.

The committee is headed by Russia’s top criminal investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, who was a university classmate of Vladimir Putin’s.

Source: Daily Mail

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