Pentagon chief meets with Zelensky during unannounced visit to Ukraine

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday during an unannounced visit to the war-torn country.

“I was honored to meet with President @ZelenskyyUa in Kyiv today to reaffirm the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine,” Austin wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. He included a photo of the two leaders and a second photo of the men during a discussion with their aides.

“We, along with our allies and partners, will continue to support Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs and long-term defense requirements,” Austin added.

Austin’s visit comes amid a push to keep funds and weapons flowing to Ukraine. Congress has yet to pass President Biden’s latest supplemental funding requests, which included aid for national security purposes as well as for Ukraine and for Israel.

Public sentiment in the United States around funding for Ukraine has softened in recent months, according to polling, especially as the conflict in Gaza has emerged as another priority.

Austin’s visit, however, supports President Biden’s insistence that support for Israel does not detract from support for Ukraine.

“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 earlier on X on Monday.

This trip marks Austin’s second trip to Kyiv. He last visited just two months after the war broke out in April, 2022.

The United States has given Ukraine more than $44 billion in weapons, battle tanks and pledges for fighter jets, The Associated Press noted.

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