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US Defense Secretary Austin meets with Zelensky in Kyiv

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 20, 2023 5:55 PM 2 min read
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Nov. 20, 2023. (Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III / X)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Nov. 20, Austin said on X.

"I was honored to meet with President Zelensky in Kyiv today to reaffirm the United States' steadfast support for Ukraine," Austin captioned the photo of their meeting.

The U.S. and its allies "will continue to support Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs and long-term defense requirements," he said.

Austin arrived in Kyiv early on Nov. 20 as part of an unannounced visit to meet top Ukrainian officials and "reinforce the staunch support for Ukraine's fight for freedom," the Pentagon reported.

Later this week, Austin will host a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, also known as the Ramstein summit, to coordinate further military aid to Ukraine.

The defense secretary's visit comes after months of infighting in the U.S. Congress over government spending, including military aid for Ukraine.

Republicans in the Senate threatened to block the aid in early November unless there were security resolutions on the southern border of the U.S., leading to a standoff with Democrats.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed a temporary spending bill into law on Nov. 16, averting the impending government shutdown but leaving the issue of continued aid for Ukraine unaddressed.

The bill, passed by bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, will fund the government through the end of the year in two staggered segments until Feb. 2 at the latest.

It earmarks money for the highest priority government expenditures but does not include funding for Ukraine, Israel, humanitarian aid for Palestinians, or increased border security.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said at a press conference on Nov. 14 that Congress would reconvene after Thanksgiving on Nov. 23 in order to try and pass a joint funding bill that contains aid for all four issues.

Congressional leaders want to pass military aid for Ukraine, Israel before Christmas
U.S Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will prioritize passing further military aid packages for Ukraine and Israel so that they are approved before Christmas, NBC News reported on Nov. 19.
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