In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on Monday, April 25, 2022, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, centre, attend their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, not in the picture, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Image Credit: AP

Poland, near Ukraine border: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, on the heels of a trip to Kyiv, pledged ongoing American support to Ukraine as it faces the prospect of a protracted war against Russia.

Speaking in a hangar in Poland filled with crates of humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine, including diapers, the two top Biden administration officials said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had expressed “deep appreciation” to the United States.

“Our support for Ukraine going forward will continue . . . until we see final success,” Blinken after the first high-level US visit to the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s war began. “The bottom line is this: 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.”

Officials described the hours-long visit in Kyiv, following stops there in recent weeks by a number of European leaders, as a symbolic show of support for Ukraine’s leaders and a message of Western resolve to the Kremlin.

The officials, who travel from Poland by train, said they informed Zelensky of new military aid and the administration’s intent to resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine this week, marking the return of US diplomats for the first time since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

Diplomats will begin by making day trips from Poland to Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, where Ukrainians and foreigners have sought shelter from the violence raging elsewhere in the country, a first step to reopening the US Embassy that was shuttered before Russia’s Feb. 24 conflict, officials said ahead of Blinken’s remarks.

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on Monday, April 25, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, attends his meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine. Image Credit: AP

While other nations, including Britain, have announced a resumption of embassy operations in Kyiv, the United States has not yet taken that step. Blinken said the US Embassy in Kyiv would likely reopen within weeks.

The two men said their three-hour visit to the Ukrainian capital, which Russian forces were unable to capture despite an attempt in the initial weeks of the war, highlighted the failure of Putin’s aims in Ukraine.

Officials outlined additional steps that Blinken and Austin relayed to Ukrainian officials during their brief stay in the capital, where they also met with Ukraine’s foreign and interior ministers. They asked reporters to withhold the name of the location in Poland that Blinken and Austin used as the jumping-off point for their visit because of security reasons.

Also this week, the Biden administration will announce the nomination of a new ambassador to Ukraine. Bridget Brink, a career diplomat, now serves as ambassador to Slovakia. There has been no confirmed US ambassador to Ukraine since Marie Yovanovitch was ousted in 2019.

The officials also brought with them promises of additional security aid, including more than $300 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine, allowing it to buy more sophisticated air defence systems and stockpile arms compatible with those used by NATO nations instead of the Soviet-designed weapons. Around $400 million more goes to help other countries purchase new weapons to boost their stocks or, in some cases, replenish arms provided to Ukraine.

This new announcement brings the amount the Biden administration has given Ukraine in security assistance since the beginning of the war to about $3.7 billion.

Austin said the United States would respond to Ukraine’s military needs as the war evolves. With the fight shifting to eastern and southern Ukraine, where Russia is seeking to cement control of areas around Crimea and in areas where Russians-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv since 2014, Austin said Ukraine forces would now need more tanks and long-range munitions. “We going to push as hard, as quickly as we can to get them what we need,” he said.

The United States and other NATO nations have expanded the flow of weaponry to Ukraine in recent weeks but have stopped short of providing fighter jets or, as Zelensky demanded in the first weeks of the war, a NATO-enforced no-fly zone.

A senior US defence official said Austin would update Zelensky on the promised deliveries of howitzers and the ongoing training of Ukrainian troops on US artillery systems, part of a previously announced set of US allocations. Officials declined to identify where the training is being conducted.

The Biden administration will also sell Ukraine up to $165 million in “nonstandard ammunition” it can use for its existing weapons systems.

“The first step in winning is believing you can win. They believe that [they] can win; we believe that they can win if they have the right equipment the right support,” Austin said. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to ensure that that gets [done].”

After his Kyiv visit, Austin will travel to Germany for a meeting on Tuesday with defence officials from a number of countries, including Ukraine.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also travelling in the region and will join Austin on Tuesday for the meeting with more than 40 NATO and non-NATO defense leaders at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The conference’s aim, Milley said, is to solicit new military aid and “to coordinate, synchronize our efforts” over the next several weeks.

“I think it’s accurate that the next several weeks will be very, very critical . . . for the outcome of this battle that’s shaping up down in the south, the southeast of Ukraine,” Milley told reporters at Ramstein, where he arrived Sunday night.

“What we want to do is make sure the right type of aid is getting to the right location at the right time, in the right quantities and make sure it’s all properly synchronised to achieve the desired effect and outcome on the battlefield,” he said.

Officials said reestablishing the diplomatic presence within Ukraine will allow embassy staffers to coordinate more closely with Ukrainian officials and, eventually, provide more consular services. The diplomats will begin by making day trips into Lviv from Poland.

“This is the first step, and we expect to be able to accelerate that in the coming days and weeks,” the State Department official said.

The defence official said the Pentagon still views Ukraine’s port of Mariupol as contested despite Russian statements about having completed a prolonged campaign to seize the city, which is on the Sea of Azov.