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US Raises Ante With High-level Visit to Kiev, More Military Aid

US Raises Ante With High-level Visit to Kiev, More Military Aid
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By Staff, Agencies

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Pentagon's Chief Lloyd Austin pledged additional military aid, including advanced weapons, and a return of US envoys to Kiev on their first wartime visit to Ukraine. 

The US officials met Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky for three hours and other top officials in Kiev late Sunday, after a train journey from Poland.

They pledged new military assistance worth $713 million for Zelensky's government and other countries in the region, US officials said.

The US has sent some $4 billion in military aid since President Joe Biden's term began last year, and already announced Thursday a new $800 million aid package to bolster Ukraine in their fight in the country's east.

The high-level US visit highlighted the shift in the conflict, signaling Washington's readiness to wade deeper into the conflict after initial qualms about getting actively involved.

Austin and Blinken said US diplomats will begin a gradual return to Ukraine this week. Washington ordered the withdrawal of its diplomats in the weeks prior to Russia's February invasion of Ukraine.

The US and NATO allies have shown growing readiness to supply heavier equipment and more advanced weapons systems. Britain has promised to send military vehicles and is considering supplying British tanks to Poland to free up Warsaw's Russian-designed T-72s for Ukraine.

On returning from the trip, Austin told journalists in Poland that Ukraine can win the war against Russia if it has the right equipment.

"We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support," he said.

Officials in Kiev had earlier drawn up a list of weapons that they urgently needed from the US. The list includes anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems, as well as armored vehicles and tanks.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Zelensky met the US officials, as the port city of Mariupol's defenses were "on the brink of collapse" and Kiev was in dire need of offensive weapons.

The West has been reluctant to intervene militarily, for fear of entering a conflict against nuclear-armed Russia. US officials Monday poured water over claims the visit represented a major escalation of US involvement in Ukraine.