According to a US official and two Ukrainian sources familiar with the meeting, CIA Director Bill Burns briefed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last week on US expectations for Russia’s spring battlefield planning.
The secret meeting comes as US officials closely monitor a potential Russian offensive in the coming months – and amid a tense debate between the US and its European allies over whether to send increasingly sophisticated and long-range weapons to Ukraine. Western defense leaders are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss further arms sales to Ukraine.
“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv, where he met with fellow Ukrainian intelligence officers as well as President Zelenskyy and reiterated our continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression,” a US official said in a statement.
The Washington Post first reported on the meeting.
Burns, a veteran diplomat, has become a trusted interlocutor in Kyiv, and last week’s trip wasn’t his first. He made two known back-to-back trips to Kyiv in October and November last year, including one that came amid a spate of Russian missile attacks across the country.
During the winter months there was brutal fighting at the front, particularly around the town of Bakhmut, but no major strategic successes on either side. Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, called it “not a stalemate but really a grueling conflict at this stage.”
However, both sides are believed to be preparing for possible spring offensives, and Kyiv continues to urge the United States and its Western allies to gain more support in their fight against Russia. A Ukrainian source told CNN that Kyiv is concerned about the pace of arms sales to Ukraine — a growing fear given Republicans, some of whom are skeptical about aid to Ukraine, have a majority in the US House of Representatives.
The Pentagon on Thursday announced a $2.5 billion security package for Ukraine – the second largest ever announced by the United States. The aid included Stryker fighting vehicles for the first time and included other Bradley fighting vehicles.
However, the Biden administration remains in a standoff with Germany over whether to send tanks to Ukraine, with German officials in recent days implying they will not send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine or any other country with Germany manufactured tanks will allow tanks in their inventory unless the US also agrees to send their M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.
The Pentagon has been saying for months that it has no intention of doing so, given the logistical costs of maintaining them.
Attention: Germany will not send its tanks to Ukraine if this does not happen
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