CIA Director Burns recently traveled to Ukraine to meet Zelenskiy

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – CIA Director William Burns recently traveled in secret to Ukraine’s capital to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a U.S. official told Reuters.

“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian intelligence counterparts as well as President Zelenskiy and reinforced our continued support for Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression,” the U.S. official, who declined to be identified, said.

The official declined to say when the visit took place. The Washington Post, which first reported the visit, said it took place at the end of last week.

Burns briefed Zelenskiy on his expectations on Russia’s upcoming military plans, the newspaper said, adding he also acknowledged that at some point U.S. assistance would be harder to come by.

Zelensky and his senior intelligence officials discussed how long Ukraine could expect U.S. and Western assistance to continue after Republicans won a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the midterm elections, the Washington Post reported, citing sources.

Zelenskiy and his aides came away from last week’s meeting with the impression that U.S. support for Kyiv remained strong, the newspaper said.

Western allies have pledged billions of dollars in weapons for Ukraine. Fearing winter will give Russian forces time to regroup and unleash a major attack, Ukraine is pushing for more assistance to combat Moscow’s invasion which began in February last year.

In his trip to Washington in December, Zelenskiy told the U.S. Congress that aid to Ukraine is an investment in democracy, and not charity, while pressing for continued American support.

The United States on Thursday announced a new package of military assistance for Ukraine it valued at up to $2.5 billion, including hundreds of armored vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defense.

CIA Director William Burns. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

In Other Developments

*  Ukrainian President Zelenskiy said his government was expecting “strong decisions” from defence leaders of NATO and other countries meeting on Friday to discuss boosting Ukraine’s ability to confront Russian forces with modern battle tanks.

WEAPONRY

* Germany’s new Defence Minister said he did not know of any requirement that Ukraine receive U.S. and German tanks simultaneously. The government has not so far authorised the export of German-made Leopard tanks, with sources saying Berlin would move if Washington agreed to send Abrams tanks.

* The United States Defense Department announced new military assistance for Ukraine valued at up to $2.5 billion, including armoured vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defence. The aid includes 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, but not Abrams tanks.

* A group of 11 NATO countries, including Britain and Poland, pledged a raft of new military aid to support Ukraine.

* A Canadian company supplying battle-ready armoured vehicles to Ukraine plans to deliver the 200 vehicles Ottawa promised to Kyiv before summer, the firm’s chief executive said.

* The Netherlands is finalising plans to provide Patriot air missile defence systems to Ukraine with Germany and the United States and will announce further military support on Friday, the defence minister said.

DIPLOMACY

* The director of the CIA travelled in secret to Kyiv at the end of last week to meet Zelenskiy, the Washington Post reported, citing a U.S. official and other sources. Burns briefed Zelenskiy on his expectations on Russia’s military plans, the report said.

* Russia’s foreign ministry said it would ban 31 New Zealand citizens, including journalists, a former defence minister and an international relations professor, from entering the country for promoting an “anti-Russian agenda” and supporting Ukraine.

* The White House national security adviser discussed the war with Israel’s leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken about reviewing Israeli policy on the war, but has stopped short of pledging any direct supply of arms to Ukraine.

* The president of the European Council declared during a visit to Kyiv that “we must spare no effort” in helping Ukraine join the 27-member group. Brussels granted Kyiv membership candidate status last June, months after Russian invaded in February.

* The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said he worried the world was becoming complacent about the considerable dangers posed by the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia atomic plant in southern Ukraine.

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