CIA Director William Burns made a clandestine trip to Ukraine last week to meet with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and brief him on Russia’s anticipated next steps in its invasion, a US official told Reuters Thursday.
“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian intelligence counterparts as well as President Zelensky and reinforced our continued support for Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official declined to say when the secret rendezvous took place, but the Washington Post, which first reported the meeting, said it happened at the end of last week.
In addition to discussing Burns’ expectations for Russia’s upcoming military plans, the paper said, the CIA chief also warned the Ukrainian leader that at some point US assistance would be harder to come by.
Zelensky and his senior intelligence officials discussed how long Ukraine could expect US and Western assistance to continue after Republicans won a narrow House majority in the November midterm elections, the Washington Post reported.
Current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has warned that Republicans will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine now that they control the lower chamber of Congress.
Ukraine’s leader and his aides came away from the meeting with the impression that US support for Kyiv remained strong, the newspaper said.
Burns has repeatedly briefed Zelensky since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, passing on intelligence about the Kremlin’s war plans and intentions.
The CIA director told “The PBS NewsHour” last month that agency analysts predicted “a reduced tempo and fighting between the two militaries as winter sets in.”
“I don’t underestimate for a moment the burdens, the challenges, that this war poses for Ukrainians first and foremost, but for all of us who support Ukraine,” said Burns, a former US ambassador to Moscow. “But strategically, I think, in many ways, you know, Putin’s war has thus far been a failure for Russia.”
The Biden administration announced Thursday a new package of military assistance for Ukraine valued at up to $2.5 billion, including hundreds of armored vehicles and support for Ukraine’s air defense.
During his trip to Washington in December, Zelensky told Congress that aid to Ukraine is an investment in democracy, not charity, while pressing for continued support.
With Post wires
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