The White House announced Monday that U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Bridget Brink will fill the vacant ambassadorship role to Ukraine
Joe Biden on Monday named his nominee to fill the vacant post for Ukraine ambassador as the country hit the two-month mark of Russia’s invasion and the embassy remains closed in Kyiv.
U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Bridget Brink will serve in a role left vacant in Ukraine for more than two years after former President Donald Trump removed Marie Yovanovitch in 2019.
Brink was appointed to her current position by Trump in 2019 and held previous assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan and with the White House National Security Council.
To become the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Brink will need another Senate confirmation.
During a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Biden will announce his nomination of the veteran diplomat to be the next US ambassador to Ukraine.
A White House announcement sent out Monday morning sang Brink’s accomplishments, including that ‘[s]he speaks Russian and has studied Slovak, Serbian, Georgian, and French.’
Yovanovitch began serving as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in August 2016 after Barack Obama’s nomination and ended her tenure in May 2019 after she became the target of a smear campaign by Trump allies.
The U.S. embassy in Kyiv (pictured in January 2022) will remain closed for now, even as the U.S. plans to gradually begin the return of diplomats to Ukraine next week. The majority of embassy staff was evacuated in mid-February as fears of Russian invasion loomed
Russia reached a full two months of invasion of Ukraine on Sunday. Pictured: Firefighters and paramedics recover the body of a resident under rubble of a building in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Sunday, April 24, 2022
Trump’s personal attorney at the time, Rudy Giuliani, among others, accused Yovanovitch of involvement in conspiracies to stop anti-corruption probes in Ukraine – including the Trump administration investigating ties between Ukrainian officials and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Giuliani and other Trump allies claimed in April 2019 that Yovanovitch was also obstructing efforts to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President and then-2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Yovanovitch was recalled from her post by Trump and returned to Washington, D.C. on April 25, 2019. The move became public on May 7 and her mission as Ambassador to Ukraine was terminated on May 20, 2019.
Since 2005, Yovanovitch has served in ambassadorships to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Ukraine under three different presidencies.
Brink will replace Marie Yovanovitch (pictured at a rally for Ukraine in March 2022) after she was removed from her ambassadorship role in Kyiv by then-President Donald Trump in 2019 following allegations she obstructed probes into ties between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and Ukraine officials
Brink, Yovanovitch’s replacement, is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and has a long career at the State Department – specifically in Eastern Europe.
Originally from Michigan, Brink earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Kenyon College and holds Master’s degrees in International Relations and Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
She started her career in Belgrade, Serbia in the mid-1990s.
The U.S. pledged another $713 million for Ukraine as Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv under the cover of darkness – but there are still no plans to reopen the war-torn country’s American Embassy.
In the highest-level meeting between the US and Ukraine since the war, Blinken and Austin took a train from Poland to Kyiv where they met with Zelensky in a trip shrouded by secrecy.
There, the officials pledged military financing to Ukraine and its NATO partners and said diplomats would start returning this week, although they will be stationed in Lviv rather than the Kyiv embassy which remains closed.
At the meeting, Blinken said, ‘Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding,’ and praised Zelensky and his country’s bravery in the face of Kremlin barbarism.
Speaking today in Poland near the Ukrainian border, the Secretary of State said: ‘We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people. This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there to have face-to-face conversations in detail.’
Austin added Zelensky’s response to the aid was deep appreciation for what was being given but ‘he has the mindset that they want to win and we have the mindset that we want to help them win’.
Journalists who travelled to Poland with Austin and Blinken were barred from reporting on the trip until it ended, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey into Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in south-east Poland they waited for the Cabinet members to return, citing security concerns.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a picture during their meeting in Kyiv
The Secretaries of State and Defense accused Russia of failing in its barbaric invasion as they boosted Ukraine’s war chest
Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with Lieutenant General Randy George, Military Assistant to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Austin said Zelensky’s response to the aid was deep appreciation for what was being given but ‘he has the mindset that they want to win and we have the mindset that we want to help them win’
Speaking in Poland after returning from the meeting (pictured), Austin and Blinken said US diplomats returning to Ukraine are likely to restaff the consulate in Lviv
Austin added Zelensky’s response to the aid was deep appreciation for what was being given but ‘he has the mindset that they want to win and we have the mindset that we want to help them win’
Just after the overnight visit, Russia bombed railway stations in the Lviv, Rivne, Vinnyista and Kyiv regions in the early hours in a warning to the West.
Their meeting is thought to have taken place between 10pm and 1am local time before they returned to Poland, with Blinken telling journalists afterwards that the delegation travelled by rail.
The strike on Krasne appears to have targeted the main line from Poland into Ukraine, though Blinken and Austin’s exact route has not been revealed.
At the meeting, Austin and Mr Blinken announced a total of $713million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322million of that is earmarked for Kyiv.
The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.
Such financing is different from previous US military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down US Defence Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.
The new money, along with the sale of $165million in non-US made ammunition that is compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use, takes the total amount of American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7billion since the invasion, officials said.
In footage of the meeting later released by the Ukrainian presidency, Blinken praised the ‘extraordinary courage and leadership and success that you’ve had in pushing back this horrific Russian aggression.’
‘We got used to seeing you on video around the world, but it’s great, it’s good to see you in person,’ Blinken said with a smile.
Austin said that ‘the world has been inspired’ by Ukraine in the war and that America would continue its support.
‘The strategy that we’ve put in place – massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts – is having real results,’ Blinken said.
Austin said in Poland today after the meeting: ‘The first step in winning is believing that you can win. And so they believe that we can win.
Journalists who travelled to Poland with Austin and Blinken were barred from reporting on the trip until it ended, were not allowed to accompany them on their overland journey into Ukraine, and were prohibited from specifying where in south-east Poland they waited for the Cabinet members to return
Austin said that ‘the world has been inspired’ by Ukraine in the war and that America would continue its support
The meeting was the highest-ranking visit by a US delegation to the war-torn nation since Russia began its invasion 60 days ago
Zelensky in the meeting said he was ‘very thankful’ for the American aid and particularly praised President Joe Biden for his ‘personal support’
US officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more military aid
‘We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support.
‘We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,’ Austin said.
Russia ‘has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops quite frankly, and we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability,’ he said.
For his part, Zelensky in the meeting said he was ‘very thankful’ for the American aid and particularly praised President Joe Biden for his ‘personal support.’
‘The priorities are weapons and support from the United States of America and our partners, European leaders, in terms of our army’s strength and support in certain areas,’ the Ukrainian president said. ‘The second issue is the sanctions policy against the Russian Federation because of the full-scale invasion and all the terror they have committed in Ukraine.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speak with reporters in Poland near the Ukraine border
Blinken boards a plane to return to Washington today from Poland after the trip to Kyiv yesterday
In giving new military assistance, the US is renewing a diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation
Sunday’s visit also came one day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to reopen the British Embassy in Kyiv. The embassy is pictured in January 2022
The three-hour meeting came Sunday, the 60th day since the start of the invasion, as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port city of Mariupol.
The financing is different from previous U.S. military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of drawn-down U.S. Defense Department stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.
The new money, along with the sale of $165million in non-U.S. made ammunition that is compatible with Soviet-era weapons the Ukrainians use, brings the total amount of American military assistance to Ukraine to $3.7billion since the invasion.
New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained on its use in neighboring countries, the officials said.
More than 50 Ukrainians are set to complete training on Monday to operate the heavy artillery that Washington has begun sending to Ukraine in recent weeks.
Biden (pictured Friday) will formally nominate an U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on Monday, a post that had remained vacant for more than two years
The visit also revealed that U.S. diplomats will gradually return to Kyiv by initially resume ‘day trips’ across the border to Lviv in the coming week.
Officials are accelerating planning to return to the Kyiv mission, the State Department official said.
‘There’s no substitute for that face-to-face engagement, and of course there is a symbolism to being back in the country,’ said the official, who briefed reporters in Poland on condition of anonymity.
U.S. diplomats departed the Kyiv embassy nearly two weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion, moving some functions to the western city of Lviv before eventually relocating to Poland.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (left), US Army lieutenant general John Kolasheski (center) and US Army Major General Christopher LaNeve (right) are pictured speaking with reporters in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Sunday
Blinken and Austin traveled to Poland on Saturday then overland into Ukraine on Sunday, where they met with Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials, a senior State Department official said, declining to discuss in detail their travel or security arrangements.
Zelensky announced the trip himself during a news conference on Saturday, which U.S. officials said was a contingency they had planned for and did not derail the visit.
Blinken and Austin were expected to have met for about 90 minutes with Zelensky, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and other officials.
Austin will travel on to Germany, where he will host counterparts from more than 20 nations and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the U.S. air base at Ramstein to discuss Ukraine’s defense needs, a Pentagon official said.
Blinken and Austin’s visit was designed to show Western support for Ukraine, where Russia’s invasion has raised fears of further aggression by Moscow.
‘It’s a very important political symbol and a symbol of uniting for the countries and politicians and nations when our partners go to Ukraine to see by their own eyes what’s happened,’ Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told CBS News on Sunday, ahead of the visit.
Shmyal had spent the last week meeting with Biden and other lawmakers in Washington D.C.
The American president has made no such-attempt to show solidarity with his own in-person visit, and his press secretary Jen Psaki has said there are no plans for the 79-year-old to travel there.
Despite that, Shmyal said he was encouraged by the backing he received from American lawmakers and his ‘main message’ for Zelensky was that the ‘civilized world is absolutely great to support Ukraine in this situation.’
It also highlighted the shift in the conflict since Ukrainian forces, armed with a massive influx of weapons from the West, successfully repelled a Russian assault on Kyiv.
Russian forces have regrouped to try to capture more territory in the southeastern Donbas region, letting foreign leaders visit the capital and some Western nations resume their diplomatic presence in recent weeks, but Washington has been cautious about a return amid sporadic Russian missile attacks in the west.
Ahead of Sunday’s visit, Blinken spoke with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday to coordinate on the U.N. chief’s visits to Moscow and Kyiv.
Shmyhal, during his CBS interview, shared his skepticism about the meeting between Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
‘So many leaders of countries of civilized world, international organization tried to have this negotiation, but it seems that the Russian Federation and Putin are not interested in this negotiation,’ Shmyhal said. ‘They are interested in other things. They are interested in genocide of Ukrainians.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured shaking hands with President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 9, 2022
Sunday’s visit also came one day after Boris Johnson vowed to reopen the UK’s embassy in Kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian capital.
In a series of tweets Saturday, the prime minister also said Britain will provide the country with ‘further military aid’, including armored vehicles.
The Conservative leader then warned Putin’s regime that his government will be collecting evidence on potential ‘war crimes’, saying Russia must be ‘held to account’.
He wrote: ‘Today I spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa to update him on the latest steps the UK is taking to support Ukraine.
‘We are providing further military aid, including protected mobility vehicles. We have issued new sanctions against members of the Russian military.
‘We will be reopening our embassy in Kyiv, demonstrating our solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
‘And the UK government is helping to collect evidence of war crimes.
‘Russia must be held to account for its actions.’
Boris Johnson vowed to re-open the UK embassy in Kyiv while warning Putin his regime will be held to account in a series of tweets on Saturday evening
Johnson’s voice of support came just hours after Putin launched a search for British SAS forces alleged to be fighting in Ukraine.
The Kremlin’s Investigative Committee (IC) said Saturday it was investigating British special forces who are thought to be in the western Lviv region.
Putin’s personal CIA said it will look into ‘the facts of the activities of British SAS saboteurs in Ukrainian regions,’ according to state-controlled outlet RIA Novosti.
The IC claimed that ‘at least two groups of specialists in sabotage and guerrilla warfare from the British Special Air Service (SAS) have been sent to the Lviv region’.
An IC source claimed SAS operatives in Ukraine ‘are specialists in sabotage and partisan activities, recruiting and training agents to work in hostile territory’.
Russia appears to base its investigation on information allegedly received from captured Ukrainian troops.
The SAS is ‘considered one of the most highly qualified in the world in organizing coups d’etat, mass protest rallies, contract killings of political figures, recruiting agents, including those in the highest echelons of power, and preparing terrorist attacks’, said the RIA Novosti report.
‘This is no ordinary special force – these are intellectuals, in each group there is always an ideologist, you can say a professor, and the rest are particular specialists,’ said a Russian law enforcement source.
The report claimed that the SAS often work in war zones under cover of medical workers.
‘With a high degree of probability, these specialists arrived in order to improve the skills and efficiency of the Ukrainian special services in coordinating the activities of sabotage groups in the territories of Ukraine controlled by Russian troops,’ said the IC source.
The committee is headed by Russia’s top criminal investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, who was a university classmate of Putin’s.