US’s Austin visits wartime Kyiv in gesture of support for Ukraine

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KYIV, Nov 20 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in wartime Kyiv on Monday in a gesture of “unwavering” support as questions swirled over the sustainability of vital Western assistance as the war with Russia drags on.

Austin, accompanied by the commander of the U.S. European Command, was shown next to a train shaking hands with the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv in a photograph published by the embassy.

“I’m here today to deliver an important message – the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom against Russia’s aggression, both now and into the future,” Austin wrote on social media platform X.

U.S. ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink said the visit signalled Washington’s “unwavering support to Ukraine in its fight for freedom”.

The trip comes amid increasing division over aid for Ukraine in the U.S. legislature with a U.S. presidential election in November next year. A joint Ukraine-U.S. military industry conference in Washington is due to take place next month.

That event, due on Dec. 6 and 7, is intended to boost Ukraine’s domestic arms production as its fight against a full-scale Russian invasion nears the two-year mark.

Russia, which launched its invasion in February 2022, controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine. The West sent in military equipment and Ukraine mounted a counteroffensive push this year to retake occupied land, but it has not made a big breakthrough.

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