U.S. diplomats to begin returning to Ukraine this week
Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during talks that U.S. diplomats will begin returning to Ukraine this week, State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed Monday.
Why it matters: The resumption of American diplomatic operations in Ukraine for the first time since Russia launched its invasion was among key steps announced during Blinken and Austin's trip to Kyiv on Sunday. The others include further aid and plans to nominate the first U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine since 2019.
- Blinken told Zelensky that President Biden will nominate Bridget Brink, the current U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia, for the role, Price said in a statement. If confirmed, she would be the first U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine since Marie Yovanovitch was ousted after public criticism from then-President Trump.
- "The increased U.S. presence demonstrates our support for Ukraine and is part of the U.S. commitment to return our diplomats to our embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible," Price said.
The big picture: American officials told reporters late Sunday that the State Department would send diplomats to Lviv this week, per the Washington Post.
- U.S. diplomats will "start with day trips" to the western Ukrainian city and "graduate to potentially other parts of the country," a State Department official said, per CNN.
Meanwhile, Blinken and Austin promised Zelensky over $300 million in foreign military financing from the U.S. and said that a $165 million sale of ammunition had been approved, AP reports.
Of note: The announcement came on the same day the only Ukrainian-born member of Congress called for the U.S. to resume diplomatic services in the country.
- Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) told CNN's "State of the Union" earlier Sunday that several countries were bringing diplomats "back to Kyiv, but the least we can do actually is bring it maybe to Lviv."
Flashback: The U.S. moved American diplomatic personnel from Ukraine to Poland after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway "republics" in the country's east on Feb. 22 — two days before his forces launched their invasion.
- The retreat of Putin's forces from the Kyiv region earlier this month has alleviated the immediate threat to Ukraine's capital, and Western diplomats have since been returning to reopen embassies there, per Axios' Zachary Basu.
Go deeper: Dashboard: Russian invasion of Ukraine
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.