Blinken spoke during a visit to the town of Yahidne in northern Ukraine, where he visited a former primary school where some 300 people, including children, were held prisoner for a month by Russian forces shortly after last year’s invasion. The site has since been turned into a museum.
“In this case, the Russians had a lot of time to prepare for the counteroffensive. They laid tens of thousands of mines and other defensive fortifications,” he said. “The Ukrainians work and get through this, but at the end of the day they have a determination, a desire that will surpass anything the Russians put into it. »
Russian missile attack shows ‘what it means’
Blinken, the first senior US official to visit since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive three months ago, traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday where he met with Zelensky and other senior members of his government.
The first day of Blinken’s visit was marked by a Russian missile attack on a market in the eastern town of Kostiantynivka. Ukrainian officials said 17 people, including a child, were killed and 38 injured in the strike.
“It was about people just shopping and trying to put food on the table,” Blinken said. “So it is very important not to lose sight of what this means for Ukrainian men and women. »
Kostiantynivka lies close to the eastern front lines, where Ukrainian forces are fighting to retake occupied lands before the onset of winter.
Blinken on Wednesday night announced a new US wartime aid package worth more than $1 billion.
That included money for ammunition, military funding and humanitarian aid, as well as anti-corruption, the State Department said. More … than $200 million has been allocated to anti-corruption reforms and strengthening the justice sector.
The aid package comes from funds already approved by Congress.
“Beyond even the equipment, beyond the training, even beyond the resources that we give them, what they are fighting for is fundamentally what will make the difference,” Blinken said.
Ukraine has no choice but to keep fighting because Russian President Vladimir Putin “shows no evidence that he is interested in meaningful diplomacy”, he added.
Putin was “wrong” if he thought that “somehow he can survive Ukraine, us, the dozens of countries that support Ukraine,” Blinken said.
Asked about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s potential next trip to Russia for arms talks with Putin, Blinken said it was a sign of the Kremlin’s “desperation”.
Russia has already widely dismissed the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failure, and the slow progress since its launch in June has led to growing criticism from some of its closest partners over how it is handling the war and fueled doubts about Kiev’s ability. achieve a decisive military victory.
This led to strong reactions from some Ukrainian officials, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked critics to “shut up” during a press briefing last week.
Despite staunch US support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February last year, several Republican presidential candidates have questioned US aid, including former President Donald Trump, fueling the concerns about whether Washington will still support Ukraine at the same level once the 2024 election campaign heats up.
The US government has so far provided more than $43 billion in arms and other military aid to Ukraine and last month President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve about $40 billion in additional spending, including $24 billion for Ukraine and other international needs.
Richard Engel reported from Ukraine, and Gabe Joselow and Henry Austin from London.