Blinken makes surprise visit to Ukraine amid a growing debate over U.S. aid

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba greets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kyiv on September 6, 2023. 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday, his fourth trip to the war-weary country since Russia’s full-scale invasion last year.

A senior State Department official described the unannounced visit to Kyiv as one intended to remind people that “dictators and autocrats” were not able “to bite off a piece of their neighbor and get to keep it with impunity,” Reuters reported, saying the official had spoken on condition of anonymity.

During the two-day visit, Blinken met with key Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Blinken’s trip comes amid a burst of battlefield gains recently by Ukrainian forces, who are carrying out a counteroffensive in the South and East of the country.

In the 72 hours before Blinken arrived, Ukrainian soldiers made “notable progress” in southern Zaporizhzhia, the White House said.

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Ukrainian soldiers from the 63 Brigade at a military exercise simulating an attack in the trenches for the counteroffensive to recapture Kherson, on Nov. 9, 2022.

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The Kremlin claimed Blinken’s visit to Kyiv was proof that the U.S. was willing to fund the war “to the last Ukrainian.”

“We have repeatedly heard statements that they [the U.S.] intend to continue helping Kyiv for as long as it takes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Russia has frequently framed the war in Ukraine as a proxy war with the West, blaming the roots of the conflict, which began after Russia invaded its neighbor in Feb. 2022, on Ukraine’s Western allies.

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CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed reporting from London.

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