US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Ukraine Thursday – paying his second visit to the country’s capital city since the war with Russia began more than six months ago.
While in Kyiv, Blinken met with top officials, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and visited a children’s hospital.
“President Biden has been clear we will support the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes. I reiterated this message to President Zelenskyy and his team today in Kyiv, which remains – and will remain – the capital of a sovereign, independent Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement.
His trip comes as Ukraine has launched counteroffensives aimed at reclaiming Russian occupied areas in the south and northeast of the country. It also coincides with a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Both Austin and Blinken visited Ukraine in late April. They remain the highest level US officials to have traveled to the country since the war began in late February. Multiple heads of state have gone to Ukraine to meet with its President Volodymyr Zelensky. US President Joe Biden has yet to travel there, though the two leaders spoke by phone in recent weeks.
According to the State Department, Blinken also briefly went into Ukraine when he met on the border with Kuleba in March.
The Biden administration has pledged ongoing support to Ukraine, and has committed more than $13 billion in security assistance since the conflict started began. Austin announced a new $675 million tranche on Thursday. Additionally, Blinken announced Thursday that the United States intends to provide more than $2 billion to bolster the security of Ukraine and 18 other regional countries.
During his Thursday trip, Blinken, accompanied by US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, visited the National Children’s Specialized Hospital Ohmatdyt in Kyiv and met with children who were being treated there – including some injured in the war. He also met Patron, the mine-sniffing dog who has gained international renown.
Blinken presented the Jack Russell terrier with dog treats, quipping that “since he’s already received a number of medals and awards, I thought he’d actually prefer something a more usable.” He posed for photos in the lobby with the vest-clad pup, who accompanied him as he toured the hospital.
“We have a long history of working on de-mining,” Blinken said. “We’re honored to be working with you on that.”
The top US diplomat met several children being treated at the hospital, including a 6-year-old, Maryna, who lost part of her leg and has been in the hospital since May after being injured in Kherson and 13-year-old Kateryna who was injured in the Kramatorsk rail station attack in early April and whose mother was killed.
“We so admire the courage, the spirit of your children. It sends a very strong message all around the world,” Blinken told the room. “And it’s an honor for me to meet you, to meet them, and to see the wonderful work that the doctors, the Minister, the Ronald McDonald House, everyone is doing. We’re just happy to be able to help and to be a friend and a partner.”
This story has been updated with additional information.