US Secretary of State Antony Blinken left Kyiv after his unannounced visit on Thursday, where he said the ongoing counteroffensive was “proving effective”.
The top US diplomat also said ‘it would be hard to imagine’ that Russia’s so-called screening operations, which have forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, would be possible without the direction of the Russian president. Vladimir Poutine.
During a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Blinken attributed the success of the counteroffensive to “the incredible bravery and resilience of the Ukrainians”, and said that the United States was “so happy to have could support your efforts”.
“Basically what that means, I think the reason for this success is that it’s your homeland, not Russia’s. And it’s as basic as that,” the top US diplomat said as he sat across from Zelensky.
Speaking to the press before leaving town by train, Blinken said he received “a comprehensive update on the counteroffensive.
“Again, it’s very early days, but we’re seeing clear and real progress on the ground, particularly in the Kherson region, but also some interesting developments in Donbass, to the east, but again, early days,” he said.
Blinken said he spent about two hours with Zelensky and his team, and called it “a very productive and meaningful day in many ways.”
In addition to meeting Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, he visited the United States Embassy, visited a children’s hospital and traveled to Irpin, where he witnessed the devastation caused by the Russian occupation of Kyiv suburbs.
The senior US diplomat told the press that he “was able to witness horrific attacks on houses, buildings, clearly belonging to civilians, where the bombardments, the missiles, the bullets, everything is there. And at best, it’s blind. At worst, it’s intentional. And I got to talk to people who are doing an amazing job compiling evidence of war crimes and atrocities and also city officials who are working to rebuild it,” he said.
Ukrainian forces regained control of Irpin in late March, but the town remained in ruins. The damage was still visible as the top US diplomat toured part of the city, guided by Deputy Mayor Dmytro Nehresha, according to press accompanying Blinken.
Blinken learned that 95% of the city was evacuated at one point, but a large majority – around 78% – have returned and are hosting people displaced from Kherson.