US diplomats' return to Ukraine, military aid among issues Blinken, Austin discussed with Zelenskyy

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U.S. diplomats will return to Ukraine this week and the U.S. will announce more military aid to Ukraine after a high-profile meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and others in Kyiv on Sunday, according to Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, who traveled with the U.S. delegation.

The meeting with Blinken, Austin, and Zelenskyy also included Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, Ambassador Oksana Makarova, General Valerii Zaluzhny, head of Presidential administration Andrii Yermak, and presidential aide Andrii Sybiyha.

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Secretary Austin brought Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense, and Lt. Gen. Randy George, his senior military aide. Tom Sullivan, deputy chief of staff for policy at State and the brother of Jake Sullivan, accompanied Blinken.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Biden will announce at 7 a.m. Eastern Monday that he is nominating a new ambassador to Ukraine: Bridget Brink. Brink, the current U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia, has decades of experience in the region, having previously served as deputy chief of mission in Tiblisi, Georgia, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

A senior U.S. Defense and State Department official told Fox News that the diplomats addressed the following issues.

Blinken will announce that U.S. Embassy officials will return to Ukraine this week, starting with day trips to Lviv and graduating to overnight, with the goal of returning to Kyiv as soon as possible. Blinken discussed this plan with Zelenskyy Sunday, sending a strong message of solidary with the embattled country.

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Blinken will also announce $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 other U.S. allies, with $322 million to Ukraine, enabling the country to buy off-the-shelf weapons and ammunition from other countries that may have older non-standard (often Soviet made) weapons and ammunition that Ukrainians know how to use.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a photo opportunity with Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu at the State Department, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a photo opportunity with Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu at the State Department, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool).
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

After the Zelenskyy meeting, Austin will announce that the 6-day training of the first tranche of 50 Ukrainian artillerymen is wrapping up and the next set of soldiers begin training after that. The training is taking place outside Ukraine in another European host nation that wishes to remain anonymous. U.S. military officials are training Ukrainians on how to use 155 mm Howitzers, training soldiers who will in turn train other soldiers. Austin will also announce that the first 18 Howitzers are now in Ukraine, with another 7 currently being prepped for transit and another 72 to be sent in another package soon.

Twenty-plus defense ministers and chiefs of defense will meet with Austin and U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley in Ramstein, Germany, on Tuesday, April 26, about how to increase aid to Ukraine. The Ukrainian defense minister, Reznikov, will attend that meeting, as will NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“For all the Russian claims that they have control of Mariupol, they are not acting like an army that has control of Mariupol,” a senior U.S. Defense official told Fox News.

Reporters who were traveling with Blinken and Austin, including Fox News’ own Jennifer Griffin, had to wait in Poland on the Ukrainian border due to security concerns, but they spoke to U.S. commanders on the ground there about the situation.

Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, the commander of V Corps, told Fox News that 5th Corps is working with NATO partners to set up battle groups in all the NATO eastern front nations from Estonia to Bulgaria.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a press conference Saturday, April 23, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a press conference Saturday, April 23, 2022.
(Fox News)

“Not just here in Poland, I think many of the countries are concerned about Russia’s next steps, and are very pleased to have the U.S. military here working side by side helping them develop their capabilities and capacity,” Kolasheski said. “Collectively us and them, our lethality, and so I think they are recognizing that Russia is currently and will be a threat in the future.”

Maj. Gen. Chris LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne who is commanding 4,700 soldiers in Poland attached to the Polish 18th Mechanized Brigade, told Fox News that every Polish military family is hosting a Ukrainian family.

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“It’s actually an honor to be paired with them,” LaNeve said. “I’ll tell you, I think some day when we can all look back and look back on what the Polish Army and the Polish people have done, almost every military member that I talk to in the Polish Army, in this area, has a Ukrainian family living with them.” 

“They’ve opened up their arms to people they never met before, they are living with them, sharing bread, they are very committed to helping,” the general added. “And for me, it has been awe-inspiring to see and be part of.” 

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