US weapons helping stabilise Ukraine's front line, Blinken says


  • World
  • Wednesday, 29 May 2024

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

CHISINAU (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that American weapons being delivered to Kyiv were helping stabilise the front line in Ukraine amid intensifying Russian attacks and that Washington would "adapt and adjust" its support.

The top U.S. diplomat travelled to the Moldovan capital Chisinau, holding talks with pro-Western President Maia Sandu on the first stop of a brief European tour aimed at solidifying support for Kyiv among NATO allies and neighbouring countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of the threat of a global conflict if Kyiv's Western allies allow it to use weapons they have supplied to strike inside Russia, something Ukraine's government is urging its partners to permit.

The U.S. has said it does not encourage or enable the use of U.S. weapons for direct attacks on Russia, but Blinken said it would "adjust and adapt", when asked at a press conference about Washington's current position on the matter.

"I think what you've seen over the two plus years, as the nature of the battlefield has changed, as the locations, the means that Russia is employing changed, we've adapted and adjusted to that ... That's exactly what we'll do going forward," he said.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby also noted that U.S. support for Ukraine has evolved with battlefield conditions. "And that's not going to change," he told reporters in Washington. "But, right now, there's also no change to our policy."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged members of the Western military alliance this week to lift restrictions on the use of their weapons to allow Ukraine to strike "legitimate military targets" inside Russia.

The U.S., which is Kyiv's most important supplier of weaponry, passed a $61 billion aid package in April following months of delay that exacerbated shortages of artillery shells.

Blinken said the U.S. weapons supplies were now having a "real effect" and that Putin had not been able to achieve his goals in the Kharkiv area in northeastern Ukraine where Russian forces launched an offensive this month, opening a new front.

"On the contrary, I think what we see, again, stabilisation of the front and a failure in terms of Putin's objectives," he said.

MOLDOVAN AID

Speaking alongside president Sandu on Wednesday, Blinken pledged $50 million in aid for Moldova and lasting U.S. support, saying the country had shown an "extraordinary resilience" in the face of Russian "bullying" and "interference efforts".

Under Sandu, Moldova has staunchly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and set its sights on joining the European Union.

Sandu said Blinken's visit was "a strong sign of support" for Moldova.

"Through unity and with the support of our partners, we will stand by our people and move forward."

Moldova, which is due to hold a referendum in October to cement its bid to join the EU into its constitution, is a vocal supporter of Ukraine and sees its own security as closely tied to Kyiv's ability to hold back Russian forces.

"Support for Ukraine equals support for Moldova, but it also works the other way round. Supporting Moldova strengthens Ukraine because Ukraine needs a strong, democratic Moldova and a supportive neighbour because we share a 1,200-km border," said Olga Rosca, Sandu's foreign policy adviser.

Blinken will travel to Prague on Wednesday to attend an informal gathering of NATO foreign ministers, which will focus on advancing preparations ahead of a July summit of the alliance in Washington.

The U.S. has been working with European allies to help Ukraine build its long-term force, efforts that would bring Kyiv closer to NATO. Individual members including the U.S. are working to reach bilateral agreements with Ukraine.

More than two years into the deadliest war in Europe since World War Two, Western allies are debating how to stop Russian military advances and Putin is increasingly evoking the risk of a global war.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Tom Balmforth in London; additional reporting by Alexander Tanas; Editing by Don Durfee, Alistair Bell, Ros Russell, Nick Macfie and Paul Simao)

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