SECRETARY BLINKEN: We had, I think, a very productive and in many ways meaningful day here in Ukraine. This is my fifth trip here as Secretary, the third since the Russian aggression started. And I thought – President Biden thought it would be particularly meaningful to come at this time as Ukraine is starting its counteroffensive in the south, also in the east. Early days, but we’re seeing real effectiveness on the ground. And we’re proud of the fact that our support, the support of so many other countries, is helping to enable what the Ukrainians are doing and working to liberate territory seized by Russia in this aggression. At the end of the day, what matters most and the thing that fundamentally makes a difference is that this is Ukraine’s homeland, not Russia. And that will I think be dispositive of everything.
I was able to announce as well additional security support today for Ukraine, $2.8 billion in additional support. That brings the total since the Russian aggression began to about $14.7 billion in security assistance, and of course there’s significant economic assistance, humanitarian assistance that goes along with that.
I was able to spend about two hours with President Zelenskyy and his team and our team going over every aspect of our support for Ukraine as well as the pressure we’re exerting on Russia to end this aggression. And that meeting was extremely productive.
Maybe the most meaningful thing was the opportunity on this trip to actually spend some time with Ukrainian citizens, including part of our embassy team. It was very meaningful for me to be able to be back at the embassy. We, as you know, had to shutter the embassy briefly when the aggression began. I was determined that we would raise the American flag again; we were able to do that some months ago. It was great to be able to see it, but especially good to hear so many of our colleagues – Ukrainian colleagues – who are the lifeblood of that embassy who have been putting their lives on the line, including to help secure our embassy and to support our team. And of course, spending time with the embassy team. Ambassador Brink, one of our strongest diplomats, was very important as well.
We spent time at a children’s hospitals, including meeting some of the youngest victims of Russia’s aggression – a very stark reminder of what this is all about. And for those of you who are along, we were just in Irpin, where I was able to bear witness to horrific attacks on houses, on buildings, clearly belonging to civilians, where the shelling, the missiles, the bullets, it’s all there. And at best it’s indiscriminate; at worst it’s intentional. And I was able to talk to people doing remarkable work in compiling evidence of war crimes and atrocities and also those responsible for the city who are working to rebuild it.
Throughout all of this we were able to reaffirm our strong support for Ukraine, our determination that Ukraine will emerge sovereign, independent, democratic, and even stronger than before. As I talk to so many Ukrainians, I have no doubt that will be the result in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Thanks.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary —
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary —
MR PRICE: John, go ahead.
QUESTION: So you have announced scores of weapons packages to Ukraine, more than any other country by a long shot. I was interviewing soldiers who are involved in the counteroffensive, and they told me to a person that they don’t have enough munitions, that they’re shooting three mortars and they get 20 mortars in return; they’re not taking certain shots that they want to take because they don’t feel like they have enough.
In your conversations today, did you have a sense for what is the disconnect? What can justify that, and did you get a comprehensive update on how the counteroffensive is moving?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: A few things, John. First, yes, we did get a comprehensive update on the counteroffensive. And again, it’s very early but we’re seeing clear and real progress on the ground, particularly in the area around Kherson but also some interesting developments in the Donbas in the east. But again, early days.
Second, throughout – from day one, even before day one with the drawdowns that we did going back to Labor Day a year ago as we saw the possibility and the increasing likelihood of Russian aggression, through everything we’ve done, now 20 drawdowns of equipment, we have been working and we have been laboring to make sure that we are getting into the hands of the Ukrainians what they need to deal with the threat that they’re facing. And that is an ever-evolving picture, depending on the nature of the battle, what they’re doing, and what the Russians are doing in response. And we continue to look at that every single day to make sure, again, they’re getting what they need.
I think you’ve seen over time what they were able to do, for example, in pushing the Russians out of the areas surrounding Kyiv many months ago was, as I said, a result first of all of their courage but also a result of what they had in their hands provided largely by the United States and other countries that we got to them even before the Russian aggression started. So we’re looking at this every single day. Secretary Austin is right now in Ramstein with a large coalition of countries that are working to support the Ukrainians.
Look, in the – and I read some of your very, very good and compelling reporting. The Russians are in many instances throwing everything they have at Ukrainian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians, and they’re doing it indiscriminately. And if you’re on the receiving end of that, it’s got to be incredibly horrifying. And at the same time, you have very precise weapons that we and others have provided to the Ukrainians that allows them with one shot to do what the Russians may try to do with 15 or 20 shots, so that’s also part of what’s going on.
But we’ve very attentive to what we’re hearing, what we’re getting from the Ukrainians, what we’re reading in your reporting and other reporting, and we are determined to make sure that they have what they need. We work on it every day.
MR PRICE: Thanks, everyone. Thanks, everyone. We’re short on time. Thanks.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the U.S. declassified new intelligence yesterday suggesting that Russia has carried out the so-called filtration of some 1.6 million Ukrainians into Russia. Do you think that is possible without the direction of Mr. Putin himself?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It would be hard to imagine.
MR PRICE: Thanks, everyone.