Ukraine war: Blinken says Russia is failing after high-profile visit to Kyiv
Kyiv, Ukraine - More high-level trips to Ukraine from top US officials are reportedly expected this week after a late-night visit on Sunday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The two men met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as other high-ranking officials in Kyiv. Most details about the visit – even its planning – were kept under tight wraps by the White House.
Blinken said afterwards that Russia is coming up short in its attempts to conquer Ukraine.
"When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding," he insisted.
He added that Russia's military has not performed to expectations and that the country's economy has been pounded by Western sanctions.
President Joe Biden did say that he plans to return the US diplomatic presence to Ukraine. Like most other countries, US diplomats fled Ukraine at the start of the war, when it looked as if Russian forces could take the capital.
He nominated Bridget Brink, the current US envoy to Slovakia, to be ambassador to Ukraine. This must now be approved by Congress.
According to The New York Times, Biden also said he wants to boost military aid to Ukraine and 15 other Eastern European nations by $713 million. The money is reportedly planned to help Ukrainian forces modernize their weapons systems.
Ukraine's NATO hopes not up for negotiation
The Azovstal steel plant became a last refuge for the people still trapped in Mariupol. According to Russian sources, around 2,500 Ukrainian and foreign fighters are still there. Kiev says there are also 1,000 civilians in the steel plant.
A series of Russian offensives were blocked in eastern Ukraine, according to reports out of Kyiv.
According to Ukrainian officials, the overnight attacks were an attempt to make headway towards Kramatorsk, an eastern city of about 150,000 which has been almost completely evacuated. That meant attacks also affecting places like Izium, Barvinkove and Komyshuvakha, the country's general staff reported on Monday.
Ukrainian forces reported that the Russians lost 13 tanks and other military items. Sources also said that five railway stations in central and western Ukraine have been hit by missile strikes.
"Russian forces are systematically destroying the infrastructure of our railyways," the head of the country's railways, Olexandr Kamishin wrote on his Telegram channel.
Unconfirmed reports of missile attacks also emerged from Lviv in the west and Vinnytsia in the south-west of Ukraine.
Monday also brought news that Kyiv does not want to remove the goal of joining NATO from its constitution, even though this is one of the main targets of Russia's aggression.
"Amendments to the constitution are not an end in themselves and will not become one," Parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk told the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda in an interview published on Monday.
Stefanchuk also stressed that the territorial integrity of the country is a "red line," as Moscow is also demanding Ukraine to officially renounce the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Cover photo: via REUTERS