CIA Director Bill Burns briefed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last week on US expectations for Russia’s spring battlefield planning, according to a US official and two Ukrainian sources familiar with the situation. meeting.
The secret meeting comes as US officials closely monitor a potential Russian offensive in the coming months – and amid an intense debate between the US and its European allies over sending increasingly sophisticated and long-range weapons to Ukraine. Western defense leaders are due to meet on Friday to discuss new arms shipments to Ukraine.
“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv where he met with Ukrainian intelligence colleagues as well as President Zelensky and reinforced our continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression,” a US official said in a statement.
The Washington Post was the first to report on the meeting.
Burns, a veteran diplomat, has become a trusted interlocutor in Kyiv, and last week’s trip was not his first. He made two consecutive trips to Kyiv in October and November last year, including one that came amid a series of Russian missile strikes across the country.
The winter months were marked by brutal fighting on the front lines, particularly around the city of Bakhmut, but without major strategic gains on either side. Director of national intelligence Avril Haines, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, said “it’s not a stalemate but really an overwhelming conflict at this stage”.
But both sides are believed to be preparing for possible spring offensives and Kyiv continues to press the United States and its western allies for more support in its fight to defeat Russia. A Ukrainian source stressed to CNN that Kyiv is concerned about the pace of arms supplies to Ukraine – a growing fear as Republicans, some of whom are skeptical of 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-biggest ever announced by the United States. Aid first introduced Stryker fighting vehicles and included more Bradley fighting vehicles.
The Biden administration, however, remains at an impasse with Germany over sending tanks to Ukraine, with German officials indicating in recent days that they will not send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine, or allow any other country with built tanks. German tanks in its inventory to do so, unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.
The Pentagon has said for months that it has no intention of doing so because of the logistical costs of maintaining them.
Watch: Germany Won’t Send Its Tanks Into Ukraine Unless That Happens
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