US officials pledge more military aid on visit to Kyiv

Kremlin vows West will fail in what it calls bid to split and ‘destroy Russia from within’

Senior US officials have said they will do "everything we can" to help Ukraine win its war with Russia, and ensure that Moscow emerges weakened from the conflict, as the Kremlin accused the West of sowing discord in Russian society and vowed that it would fail.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken and secretary of defence Lloyd Austin pledged more military aid to Kyiv on a visit to the city, hours before Russian missiles struck the Ukrainian rail network that is vital for the smooth delivery of Western arms to the nation's troops.

"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," Mr Austin said at a news conference in Poland, after the two officials had left Ukraine following talks with its president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“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,” he added. “We believe that we – they – can win if they have the right equipment, the right support, and we’re going to do everything we can and continue to do everything we can.”

The US has provided about $3.7 billion (€3.45bn) in military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24th, and forthcoming deliveries are expected to include heavy Howitzer artillery pieces and specially designed “kamikaze” drones as fighting intensifies in the plains and industrial towns of the eastern Donbas region.

Terrain

Mr Austin pledged that the US would “push as hard as we can as quickly as we can to get them what they need”, and said Ukraine’s forces were “now focused on . . . a different type of terrain. So they need long-range fire.”

Mr Blinken praised Mr Zelenskiy’s “extraordinary courage, leadership and success” in resisting Russian troops who, after invading Ukraine two months ago, have suffered heavy losses and were forced to retreat from outside Kyiv before switching their focus to Donbas.

“Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence – that has failed,” Mr Blinken said, describing the Russian military as “dramatically underperforming” and its sanctions-hit economy as a “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 said.

British defence secretary Ben Wallace said London's believes Russia has lost some 15,000 troops, 2,000 armoured vehicles including 530 tanks and about 60 helicopters and fighter jets during the war.

Moscow has acknowledged 1,351 military deaths in Ukraine, during what it calls a “special operation” to “denazify” and demilitarise the pro-Western democracy.

Discord

Russian state media increasingly claim that the country’s military is effectively fighting powerful Western states in Ukraine, and Mr Putin accused Kyiv and its allies of plotting to kill pro-Kremlin journalists and sow discord in Russia.

“Another task has come to the fore: to split Russian society and destroy Russia from within,” he said. “It is not working.”

Moscow expelled 40 German diplomats on Monday in retaliation for Berlin's decision to blacklist what it called a "substantial number" of diplomats at the Russian embassy in Berlin earlier this month.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe

READ MORE