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Friday June 21, 2024

Pentagon chief tells Zelensky US backs Ukraine for the ‘long haul’

By AFP
November 21, 2023
In this file photo taken in the US state of Virginia, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on September 21, 2023. — AFP File
In this file photo taken in the US state of Virginia, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on September 21, 2023. — AFP File

KYIV, Ukraine: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin pledged further American support for Ukraine during an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday to stem concerns that help from its biggest ally could waver.

The United States has provided over $40 billion in security aid to Ukraine since Russia´s invasion and pledged to back Kyiv for “as long as it takes” but opposition from hardline Republicans has raised doubts about the future of US assistance.

Austin visited the US embassy in Kyiv to meet diplomats and Defence Department personnel before assuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a face-to-face meeting that US support would not lapse.

“The message that I bring you today, Mister President, is that the United States of America is with you. We will remain with you for the long haul,” Austin told Zelensky. “What happens here in Ukraine -- that not only matters to Ukraine but it matters to the rest of the world. It certainly matters to the United States of America,” he added.

The trip to Kyiv is the Pentagon chief´s second since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Washington is by far the biggest donor of military assistance to Kyiv and a cut to US aid would be a major blow to Ukraine as it readies for the second winter of the war.