Blinken makes unannounced trip to Ukraine as nuclear fears rise

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday arrived in Ukraine for an undisclosed trip, his second visit to the country since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

Blinken landed in the country after an overnight flight just hours after Ukraine’s military chief publicly warned of the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons in the conflict.

“Another factor is the direct threat of the use by Russia, under certain circumstances, of tactical nuclear weapons,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in an article co-authored by lawmaker Mykhailo Zabrodskyi and published by state news agency Ukrinform.

Blinken’s visit comes on the heels of a call last month with his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in which he reinforced U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense needs. President Joe Biden later announced a $3 billion package to train and equip Ukrainian armed forces.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits a children’s hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday.Emilio Morenatti / AP

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has mocked the West’s response to the war, saying Wednesday that Russia had “not lost anything” amid a host of sanctions that targeted elites and services that helped finance the ongoing invasion.

Ukraine also faces nuclear concerns regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest.

On Wednesday, Ukraine called for the residents of Russian-occupied areas around the power plant to evacuate for their own safety. Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the nuclear plant, risking a nuclear disaster.

Blinken’s trip comes roughly four months after he visited Ukraine with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. At the time, Blinken said they weren’t able to visit much of Kyiv or speak to many people due to security concerns.

Abigail Williams contributed.

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