Blinken Declares Russian Operation Has "Failed" During Zelensky Meeting - Says US Diplomats Returning To Ukraine
During Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's unannounced trip to Kiev on Sunday (which had been revealed the day prior by Zelensky himself), where they met with the Ukrainian leader and hashed out details of new impending US weapons shipments, among the most significant announcements from Blinken is the planned return of American diplomats to the country.
All diplomatic staff had been pulled quickly upon the end of February Russian invasion, but European and US officials coming back to Ukraine even as fighting rages in the east is intended to underscore the Western assessment Moscow's military operation has "failed" - as Blinken stressed after his Zelensky meeting to reporters.
The US top diplomat asserted that ongoing Russian efforts to "subjugate Ukraine and take its independence" has "failed." He described that "Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence – that has failed. It has sought to assert the power of its military and its economy, we of course are seeing just the opposite, a military that is dramatically underperforming and an economy … as a result of sanctions that is in shambles."
"We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene," he added.
The gradual return of a US official presence will begin with the city of Lviv in the West - which has for the most part been sparred from major Russian bombardment. CNN reports:
As part of the resumed US diplomatic presence in Ukraine, diplomats will “start with day trips into the Lviv” and “will graduate to potentially other parts of the country and ultimately, to resume presence in Kyiv,” according to a senior State Department official.
Blinken told reporters following the meeting with President Zelensky, "This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail."
"Russia has already failed and Ukraine has already succeeded. Because the principal aim that President Putin brought to this, in his own words, was to fully subsume Ukraine back into Russia … That has not happened."— Cliff Levy (@cliffordlevy) April 25, 2022
— US secretary of state Blinkenhttps://t.co/Koi5RfO3AQ pic.twitter.com/CZcVzhamNu
Much of their meeting was taken up with discussions over weapons, coming off last week's announced $800 more in military aid for Ukraine. Austin detailed this part of the conversation as follows:
"We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine," Austin said at a press conference at an undisclosed location in Poland near the Ukrainian border following the trip to Kyiv. "So it has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability."
As for seeking a "weakened" Russia, there's widespread speculation that yet another mystery explosion at a military hub inside the country could be part of West-backed covert sabotage operations...
US Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State enter Ukraine; shortly thereafter, explosions at one of Russia’s military logistics hubs 100 miles inside Russian territory. Recall, the US has bragged that it will now provide Ukraine with intel for “offensive” combat operations pic.twitter.com/l6HGmQ6JXV— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 25, 2022
The reported explosions and resulting fires were reported in Bryansk, southwest of Moscow - following two prior similar incidents Friday, also subject of intense speculation...
Bryansk, Russia pic.twitter.com/vw3P78GsOs— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) April 25, 2022
During the presser in Poland that followed the Zelensky meeting, Austin said further of the Ukrainian leader: "He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win."
"We believe that they can win if they have the right equipment," he added, "the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can … to ensure that gets to them."
As for what Zelensky requested during the meeting with Blinken and Austin, this appears to have been more and more weapons in greater quantities:
“We really need armored vehicles. We really need artillery systems … We need tanks in order to defend ourselves on the ground, in order to unblock such cities as Mariupol, in order to withstand the potential offensive of Russian armed forces in the Donbas,” the official said.
“That’s what we need immediately. That’s what we need now. And that’s what we need in bigger quantities.’’
“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine. It has already lost a lot of military capability, and a lot of its troops quite frankly.”— Cliff Levy (@cliffordlevy) April 25, 2022
— US defense secretary Austinhttps://t.co/Koi5RfO3AQ pic.twitter.com/pNvwsfz285
Though appearing to fall on deaf ears, Russia's foreign ministry has reportedly sent yet another diplomatic protest note to the US embassy over the ramped up weapons shipments. We wonder if any specific "red lines" were spelled out, in what's becoming an increasingly worrisome standoff which could see the two sides enter direct clash over Ukraine. Already, the Kremlin has long said it's ready to attack any external shipments it finds coming into Ukraine - no matter the country that sent them.