Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a Joint Press Availability
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: (Via interpreter) Tony, welcome to Kyiv. I think that there is – we don’t need any formal greetings because during this time with joint work – specifically with the beginning of the large-scale invasion – our relationship with the Ukraine and United States, they went to such level that we don’t need a – we need everything – what we need is just open and sincere conversation. And this is what we had today.
However, I would like to thank the State Secretary for – you begin the day visiting the cemetery, Berkovetske cemetery. Just I will comment, this – just today we begin a new tradition, and I am grateful to the State Secretary for being the first – the chief of the – of the Foreign Service, of international – of the country to begin his visit with honoring fallen Ukrainian soldiers who died repelling the large-scale invasion.
Today, I mentioned, Tony, that we have so many – unfortunately, we have hundreds of such cemeteries across Ukraine. In every one, they are visible because on the graves of soldiers we have flags. And I would like to sincerely thank Tony for today’s – he was today with me, and he shared this emotional moment with me, and he honored the fallen. However, also he demonstrated the highest level of respect to Ukrainian soldiers who are continuing their fight, who are continuing the counteroffensive, and they are participating in defensive action and they defend Ukraine.
For me today, it was very important to hear the words of the State Secretary about the high estimate of the actions of our soldiers, of officers, and of all defense forces of Ukraine. It’s truly objective assessment that includes the difficult reality on the battlefield and those heroic actions that Ukrainian soldiers are doing.
However, let’s get to the substantive part of our negotiations. Today we learned one more time that United States continue to be the leading partner and ally in the repelling of Russian – it’s – it relates to all of the issues: humanitarian, energy, military, everything that comes from United States. And we’re grateful for that. We’re grateful to the Biden administration for this, for the presidential Foreign Service, and specifically to the State Secretary, to Congress, and every American citizen who supports Ukraine in this fight.
Military aid that is provided to Ukraine and financial aid and other types of – these are not charity. I would like to underline this one more time. The – this is the most – this is the most profitable investment into the security of Europe and Euro-Atlantic space and the whole world. Today, Ukraine, with the support of partners, we hold the advance of Russia to – we make them to decline their – imposing their will on other countries.
And besides, we are not putting any American soldiers’ life under the threat. It’s our people who are fighting, using and employing specifically weapons systems of our partners. We never asked to send the U.S. troops to Ukraine, and we are not going to ask this. But we truly need support in this fight, and this support is also recognition of this mission that Ukraine carries out in global history context.
Today, it’s not a surprise we spoke a lot about weapons. We thank for already approved decisions and funded decisions. It’s very important. The State Secretary is going to go back with maximum clear – our necessities and requirements to increase air defense capabilities. We today, on the way, and when the State Secretary was on the way here to Kyiv, experienced another rocket barrage. And other areas of Ukraine, they suffered losses.
We didn’t spend a lot of time on discussing air defense because there’s nothing to discuss. Everything is obvious. The requirement is very – in high demand and very important. I just mentioned the number of systems that – defense systems that are necessary to protect the grain corridor and our cities and our people.
I would like to thank specifically and separately United States for decision to allow other countries to begin F-16 training for our pilots, and also the transfer of those planes. We thanked Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, who announced that they are ready to transfer F-16s, and we are thankful to those countries, too, who are going to train our pilots. But in all those things, a lot of that belongs to the United States because without their decision, these countries wouldn’t be able to approve those decisions on their side, because F-16’s an American airplane.
In details, we discussed providing long-range rockets, ATACMS. We had the substantive discussion. I’m very happy that this option is still open, and we are expecting and we are relying inside of the presidential administration, American presidential administration. We’re waiting so they would stop and discuss this more in details. And we know that it’s not just enough to just bring other countries’ weapons here; we need to increase production of weapons of different types. And it’s truly that – there were times for the world to get rid of weapons, but now the world is arming itself.
I informed the State Secretary of – on our plan to hold first forum of defense industries where Ukraine international companies are going to join their efforts to develop a maintenance of weapons. We’re going to integrate defense industry of Ukraine to NATO industry. And I’m grateful for the State Secretary for confirming that the U.S. and American companies will participate in this very important event.
A couple words on – about grain export. Our views are common. We think that the most prospective is the Danube grain corridor. We’re going to develop it and we’re going to – and separately we discussed, of course, peace formula, and we coordinated the future next steps to increase and strengthen the circle of participants – and as an initiative of the – President Zelenskyy. And we stated that peace formula is the foundation for stopping war and there is a historical moment in this.
And it’s first time, to my – in my memory, that the rules of the end of the war decided not – not by the aggressor, by – but the rules of stopping the war is setting by the country that was attacked. It’s very important for the international diplomacy, international law. It’s very fair and just approach, and that’s why we agreed upon next steps we are going to take together.
And finally, one question I’d like to mention is the civilian prisoners. I informed the State Secretary that Russia implements the most massive operation in the new history on imprisonment of civilians. Tens of thousands of people are getting into Russian captivity simply because they are Ukrainians and they are not – and the Russian occupation power don’t like it and they don’t like them. We understand that the world needs a more proactive mechanism to release those people. There are still many questions.
But we shouldn’t allow Russia to establish a precedent, a case where them and other evil regimes can use imprisonment of civilians as a weapon of war. Our – both expert teams will hold consulting in discussing what international law instruments and tools are available to release these people, and maybe to discuss what tools should be installed. And I would like to thank also the State Secretary for everything that we discussed, all of the efforts like peace formula, relations with African countries, weapons, counteroffensive.
All of that in the center of discussion for the State Secretary was always – a person is in the center – a person’s security, a person’s rights and freedom. And because of this approach, we always find solutions because everything what we do, we do for the people. And this relates to such thing as returning McDonald’s to Ukraine, which returned and became a symbol of returning of American business back, and the symbol of assurance that it’s possible to create a big business in Ukraine and be with the people during hard and important time in their life.
And thank you very much one more time, and for the negotiations that we held with the prime minister, with the president of Ukraine. They were very fruitful, and I’m sure that in the future we will have some new decisions made and we’ll continue our motion ahead. And no one in the world who is doubting that Ukraine and United States will stand shoulder by shoulder till the end of the victory, today they saw and they received a new signal that they are wrong.
We’re moving forward together because we understand this war, not just – it’s not about the future of Ukraine; it’s about the future of the world. And we should defend this world jointly.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Dmytro, thank you very, very much. Let me start by saying how moving it was to join you this morning in paying tribute to Ukraine’s fallen soldiers who gave their lives for the freedom of this country. We talk about numbers and statistics a lot, but standing there with Dmytro in front of the grave to the fallen and seeing the photographs of each one brings home powerfully the real story, the human story of lives lost, cut short because of this horrific Russian aggression. And it’s also a powerful reminder of the extraordinary resilience, courage, and determination of Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s armed forces.
This is now my sixth trip as Secretary of State to Ukraine and the fourth since the Russian full-scale invasion began February 24th of 2022, and I keep seeing the same thing – that determination, that resilience, that commitment on the part of all Ukrainians to build a future where they can live safely and live freely in a thriving democracy, fully integrated with Europe. Ukraine is the home of incredibly proud people who are driven by a fierce belief in themselves, in their freedom, in their right to choose their own path; a nation united by common sacrifice but fortified by the righteousness of their fight.
And that spirit is everywhere. I saw it again today in the men and women who are reopening or visiting businesses in Kyiv, in the children returning to class for the new school year, in the families and communities defiantly continuing to live their lives even as Putin seeks to end them.
The United States is committed to empowering Ukraine to write its own future. In the crucible of President Putin’s brutal and ongoing war, the United States and Ukraine have forged a partnership that is stronger than ever and growing every day. We will continue to stand by Ukraine’s side, and today we’re announcing new assistance totaling more than $1 billion in this common effort. That includes $665.5 million in new military and civilian security assistance. In total we committed over $43 billion in security assistance since the beginning of the Russian aggression.
Now, since I was last here almost exactly one year ago, Ukrainian forces have taken back more than 50 percent of the territory seized by Russian forces since February of 2022. In the ongoing counteroffensive, progress has accelerated in the past few weeks. This new assistance will help sustain it and build further momentum.
The assistance includes an additional $175 million in drawdown authority that will provide significant support for Ukraine’s air defenses – a critical need, as you heard Dmytro say – among other areas: another 100 million in Foreign Military Financing to support Ukraine’s longer-term military needs; $300 million to support law enforcement efforts to restore and maintain law and order in liberated areas.
We’re sending our first delivery of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to Ukraine’s border guards and police, some of whom I’ll have an opportunity to visit with tomorrow. And we’re providing critical assistance for demining to help clear Russian land mines, unexploded ordnance, and other daily remnants of war killing and maiming civilians. Ukraine is now the world’s most heavily mined country – 30 percent of its territory is potentially covered with mines. Russia’s weapons of war have killed hundreds of civilians and threatened to put millions at risk for years, even decades to come.
The new security funding that we’re announcing today will also be bolstered by the arrival of U.S. Abrams tanks this fall and by training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in the United States, complementing training that is already underway in Europe.
Even as we maximize our support for Ukraine to counter the current Russian aggression, we’re committed to helping Ukraine build a force for the future that can deter and defend against future aggression. Today with President Zelenskyy, I discussed longer-term sustainable security arrangements which will provide ongoing security assistance and modern military equipment across land, air, sea, and cyberspace, as well as training and intelligence sharing. The State Department is leading these discussions, which will continue in the months ahead.
Twenty-eight other countries are making similar commitments through the G7 declaration of support for Ukraine, in no small part because they recognize, as the foreign minister said, that Ukraine’s security is integral to the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic community and, indeed, it’s integral to security around the world because of the principles that are being challenged here as well as Ukrainian lives and livelihoods. Together, these 29 countries that are committed to supporting Ukraine over the long term will coordinate and share the burden of that long-term support.
In the more immediate term, we are working with Congress across parties to provide additional short-term funds in the supplemental funding bill this month. At the same time, we will continue to support Ukraine as it works to build international consensus for a just and durable peace that upholds the UN Charter and its fundamental principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence.
Beyond Ukraine’s security needs, for the first time we are transferring to Ukraine assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs, which will now be used to support Ukrainian military veterans. Those who have enabled Putin’s war of aggression should pay for it. We’re continuing lifesaving humanitarian assistance; emergency shelter for those whose homes Russia has destroyed; medical support and health care for survivors of relentless Russian missile attacks and shelling, including as we saw again last night and today; food, clean drinking water; generators for communities. Today we’re committing an additional $206 million toward that effort, much of which is dedicated to helping the more than 6 million Ukrainians who are displaced by Russia’s war.
As Russia continues to weaponize food, we’re helping people within Ukraine and around the world who are suffering from extreme hunger as well as malnutrition. Not content with pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative – which has sent 32 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain to the world, the equivalent of more than 18 billion loaves of bread, most of it to developing countries – Putin is now bombing Ukrainian granaries and warehouses, mining port entrances, driving up food prices around the world, devastating Ukrainian farmers.
Now, Russia claims it would be willing to return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative if its conditions are met. The United Nations has put forward a proposal that meets those conditions, but Putin continues to hold out. Meanwhile, Russia is using the hunger and market distortion that it’s created to profit from record-breaking exports of its own grain. As we build international pressure on Russia to return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, we’re working with Ukraine to find and use alternative routes for its grain shipments to other countries.
For Ukraine not only to survive, but to thrive, we’re also supporting its efforts to rebuild from Russia’s aggression. At the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in London a few months ago, I pledged that the United States would invest more than $520 million in making Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, more than half of which has been destroyed by Russia, cleaner, more resilient, and more integrated with Europe. We’re making new investments to enhance the transparency of Ukraine’s institutions and to bolster the rule of law so that Ukraine’s democracy is even more responsive to the needs of its people and can attract the private capital needed to rebuild.
We’re engaged in assisting the Government of Ukraine on anti-corruption efforts and on efforts to ensure accountability and full transparency of all the assistance we’re providing as well as the security of U.S.-provided defense articles and technologies. President Zelenskyy and I discussed these issues today and the importance to Ukraine’s democratic future of continued reforms and the fight against corruption.
A few months ago, in Helsinki, I spoke to how President Putin’s war in Ukraine has been and will continue to be a strategic failure for Russia. There’s no better demonstration of that than seeing the Ukrainian people, whose national identity Putin sought to erase, stronger and more unified than ever before. As I said then, no one has done more to intensify Ukrainians’ determination to write their own future on their own terms than President Putin.
Now, we have no illusions that the path forward will be easy, but this is a fight that we must and we will win for any country threatened by bullies or would-be aggressors, for all who seek a future of security and peace. And my message today on behalf of President Biden and the United States to the Ukrainian people is: Just as we have stood with you to ensure your nation’s survival over these past 20 months, so we will stand with you as you determine your future and rebuild a free, a resilient, a thriving Ukraine.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Excellencies, and we’ll take questions. The first one goes to Wall Street Journal. William.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, both of you. Secretary Blinken, you said that you have no illusions that the fight will be easy. What did you hear, what one or two things did you hear on this trip from President Zelenskyy or others that you can take back to President Biden and the American people, and say this is a fight that Ukraine can win, this is a fight that makes sense for the U.S. to support?
And also for Foreign Minister Kuleba, I wanted to ask a similar question. Are you at all worried about waning political support for the war in Ukraine in the United States? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Will, thank you. First as I said, it’s important to put where we are and where Ukraine is in respect. As I mentioned a moment ago, I was last here almost exactly a year ago. And in that time – in the year since I was last here, Ukraine has taken back more than 50 percent of the territory that Russia seized from it since February 2022. In the current counteroffensive, we are seeing real progress over the last few weeks. As it happens, President Zelenskyy just returned from the front lines so I was able to hear directly from him his assessment of the counteroffensive. And I think it very much matches our own, which is, as I said, real progress in recent weeks.
We are doing everything we can to maximize our support to Ukraine as it pursues a counteroffensive. And ultimately, as I said before, one thing above all other things will make the difference on this. Beyond the extraordinary work the Ukrainians are doing, beyond even the equipment, the support, the training that we and dozens of other nations are providing, the fundamental difference maker is that Ukrainians are fighting for their own country, for their own future, for their own freedom; Russians are not. And that gives me tremendous confidence that Ukraine will prevail.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: As I mentioned, I believe that Secretary and this administration and both parties in Congress understand that what is being decided here in Ukraine is not just about Ukraine; it’s about the way the world will look like. Because if Russia manages to succeed even partially, it will be a clear motivational signal – a clear encouragement – to all other malign forces across the globe to solve problems through the use of force.
The second argument is also – I mean, I think very simple. I mean, I don’t want to sound rude, but the question is if the West cannot win in this war, then what is the war that the West can win? And when I say the West, I include Ukraine to this list as well. But I think the most important part of your answer was – comes from the Secretary himself from his concluding lines that Ukraine, as he said, should win and will – must win and will win. And this is exactly the philosophy that is being then implemented into specific decisions that gives me reasons to believe that we are continuing our walk towards victory. And it’s deeply appreciated.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Antony, what I discussed with Paul Whelan who Russia is holding him for four years in the prison and also Russia is holding our Ukrainians in prisons. So will United States will include – get engaged into the discussion and to the negotiation of returning Ukrainians from the prison?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. First, let me say that, for me, the well-being, the security, the safety of Americans everywhere, and particularly overseas, is my number one responsibility. And that very much goes to Americans who are being unjustly detained, including Paul Whelan, and of course Evan Gershkovich. We are focused every day on trying to bring them and other unjustly detained Americans home.
When it comes to Ukrainians who are being detained – civilians, as you’ve heard Dmytro refer to as well as prisoners of war – of course, Ukraine has been in the lead on seeking to secure their freedom. But if there are any ways we can support that effort and help that effort, of course, we’ll do it.
MODERATOR: Next one goes to CNN Jennifer.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this, both of you. Mr. Secretary, yesterday Russia and Saudi Arabia announced they would continue their voluntary oil production cuts and that’s already seen a surge in oil prices. Are you concerned that this is going to have an impact on Americans at the pump? And are there going to be consequences for Riyadh as was warned last year when we saw similar moves?
And then to both of you, today, Putin spoke with MBS and praised their economic cooperation. Does this give you concerns that Saudi Arabia could be an honest broker in any peace negotiations given the close ties between the two?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So our focus is on making sure of two things: that energy remains readily available and that there’s sufficient supply on the market to meet demand; and, of course, that this is done at a reasonable price. We are always looking to see what those who are producers and suppliers of energy are doing in terms of that supply and the effects that it’s going to have on the market. So we will look at this carefully in the days and weeks ahead to see the results that it actually produces. You can get an immediate bump in price, but that may quickly settle down to something lower. So it’s something we’ll be looking at, again, with the objective of ensuring that there is sufficient energy on world markets to meet demand and at a fair price.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: Ukrainian soldier is the most honest broker in this war, because we all understand that the road to any diplomatic process lays through the battlefield. In diplomacy I think that – I think one of the finest arts of diplomacy is the art of separation, like in cooking. And I believe it’s no coincidence that while Saudi Arabia and Russia discuss strengthening economic cooperation, Saudi Arabia hosts very important meeting in Jeddah dedicated to the realization of peace formula proposed by Ukraine. And I believe that the art of Saudi diplomacy here is to separate these tracks. And we welcome their effort to bring together various countries to make them sit at the table in Saudi Arabia and discuss how to restore peace in Ukraine on Ukraine’s terms. This is very important.
MODERATOR: The last one (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. My first question is to Secretary Blinken. As we know, Ukraine and USA started talks about security guarantees. Can you give us a little more information, how is it going, and when we will hear the first, maybe, results?
(Via interpreter) What do we expect from the general assembly, and what are goals? And what are we going to get out with from that event?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So we are focused with our Ukrainian partners and many other countries around the world on two things. One is in the near term, in the immediate term, ensuring that Ukraine has what it needs to be successful on the battlefield in pursuing the counteroffensive and dealing with the current Russian aggression. And an important part of my visit here today was to do what we’ve been doing all along, which is to listen very carefully to our Ukrainian partners, to understand what they need in this moment, and to look at ways to support that.
But even as we’re doing that, it’s critically important that we and many other countries that have agreed to do the same help Ukraine build a force for the future, a military force for the future, that is capable of deterring future aggression and, if necessary, defending and defeating it. We now have 29 countries that are signed on to a declaration issued by the G7 at the end of the NATO summit that is focused on doing just that, helping Ukraine build this force for the future. And we’re in the early stages of talking directly with Ukraine about what the different elements would be. Other countries are similarly engaged or beginning to engage in those conversations. And as I indicated, that will I think play out over the coming months.
It’s important because we want to make sure that Ukraine is in a position for the long term, not just today, to deter aggression and to defend against it. We need President Putin to understand that he cannot outlast Ukraine, he cannot outlast Ukraine’s supporters, that Ukraine is actually going to grow stronger and even more effective with a military force that is world class, but also a strong and vibrant economy and a strong and vibrant democracy.
So all of these things together are the recipe for, as I said earlier, a Ukraine that not only survives this Russian aggression but thrives in the future. That’s the best possible response to what Putin has done.
So this work on helping Ukraine build long-term deterrence and defense, as I said, we’re beginning to engage in those conversations in detail, but this will be something that we work on in the coming months.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: (Via interpreter) General assembly will be very big and fruitful. The priority number one to include the new countries to implementation of peace formula, President Zelenskyy’s peace formula, and to – and execute the next steps for the holding global summit, global peace summit. Number two, it’s the issue of export of Ukrainian grain to the world markets. You know that UN has its own role in it. And as a result of these processes and all the whole world especially African and Asian countries are very looking forward to resolve this issue, because the prices for bread is unfortunately because of the Russian blackmail is growing. And we need to ensure the world and protect the world from the possibility of Russia blackmailing the world. The third subject, it’s a bilateral meetings during this United Nations session. And we’re going to discuss weapons, new defense packages going to Ukraine.
What else? And there will be hundreds of other questions that we’re going to discuss, but these are the major – these are three major issues and questions that we’re going to discuss.