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Austin visits Kyiv to signal US support as battles rage

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (right) speaks to employees of the US embassy in Kyiv during his visit to Ukraine on Nov. 20, 2023. (W.G. Dunlop/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, arrived in Kyiv for talks on a mission to reaffirm Washington’s continued backing for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

Austin said in a post on X on Monday that he’s in Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian leaders. “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 said.

Ukraine’s closest European allies are increasingly concerned about the U.S.’s ability to sustain support for Kyiv amid a thorny political spending debate ahead of next year’s presidential elections. Worries focus on tensions over funding in the U.S. Congress that threaten to leave Ukraine without sufficient aid to beat back Russia’s invasion.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the head of the military’s medical support service as he called for a “fundamentally new” level of care for troops wounded in the war.

Zelenskyy appointed Major General Anatoliy Kazmirchuk to replace Tetiana Ostashchenko as head of the Medical Forces Command. Kazmirchuk was head of the main military hospital in Kyiv.

There’s an “obvious” need to improve medical support for troops “from high-quality tourniquets to full digitalization and transparency in medical supplies as well as training and sincere communication with combat medics,” Zelenskiy said in his regular video address, explaining the decision. “Changes need to be made quickly.”

Ostashchenko had faced criticism including from volunteer activists and lawmakers over poor-quality equipment and medicines supplied to the armed forces. With the war approaching its 22nd month, combat operations are continuing along parts of the front line in eastern and southern Ukraine, though rainy weather is continuing to slow the pace of fighting until winter sets in, according to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War on Sunday.

Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks in several directions, including Kupyansk in the northeastern Kharkiv region and Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskiy said on Telegram. “The Ukrainian army continues its counteroffensive action to the south of Bakhmut, inflicting losses on the Russian army” he said.


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