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Politics

The U.S. is stepping up support for Ukraine in its war with Russia

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

The U.S. is stepping up support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. NATO's foreign ministers met in Brussels today, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed not to let anything stand in the way of getting Ukrainians what they need.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: The sickening images and accounts coming out of Bucha and other parts of Ukraine have only strengthened our collective resolve and unity.

DETROW: NPR's Becky Sullivan is also here in Kyiv. Hey, Becky.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Hey there.

DETROW: So tell us about these meetings. What was on the table today?

SULLIVAN: Yeah. So the discussions this week are all following some of these reports that have come out in these last few days as Russians have withdrawn all of their troops from the Kyiv region, and they've left behind these so-called newly liberated cities. Ukraine says that there is evidence in these places that Russian soldiers committed war crimes, whether that is executing civilians in the street or intentionally striking apartment buildings and the like. And so now Ukrainian officials are pointing to these things, saying, look at Bucha, look at Borodyanka, these places where these things they say happened, see what they're doing. And part of that effort was Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba today giving this impassioned address at the NATO meetings, urging the West to send more aid and to do it quickly.

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DMYTRO KULEBA: Either you help us now - and I'm speaking about days, not weeks - or you help will come too late, and many people will die.

SULLIVAN: So that's a pretty heavy message right there that Ukraine is telling to the West right now.

DETROW: Yeah, you were in Borodyanka yesterday; I was there today; a lot of burned and destroyed apartment buildings there. But when he says the need - that help needs to arrive in days, not weeks, why the urgency?

SULLIVAN: Well, right now, there's this feeling that we're sort of in a lull between these big military pushes, essentially. So now that Russia seems to have given up on Kyiv, they've withdrawn all their troops from the area. And now attention is shifting to the east to these regions called Luhansk and Donetsk that have been contested since 2014. There's a sense that Russia wants to try to take them. And so troops from both sides have spent the last several days repositioning to prepare for a big fight out there. And Kuleba today said that it would remind people of World War II, to give you a sense of how seriously they're taking this. So Luhansk's governors are telling people to evacuate today. The mayor of the Dnipro, which is the biggest city near the front lines in the east, saying that they're expecting another big influx of refugees and suggesting that it might be better for women and children and elderly people to go somewhere safer.

And Ukraine's deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, today said that Russia's goal is still to take the entire territory of Ukraine. So officials here are saying essentially that if they get the Donbas, that they might even try to come back and take Kyiv again if they're successful out there in the east. So Ukraine is essentially saying now, look. We need all of the help we can get to quash this while we still have the chance.

DETROW: What's the specific equipment that Ukrainians say they need right now?

SULLIVAN: Yeah. Ukraine has called for sort of a lot of different things throughout these past six weeks, including more direct NATO involvement and a no-fly zone. But the West has really made that clear that it isn't interested in that kind of direct involvement. And so the most realistic and effective thing that Ukraine has asked for has been additional weapons aid. And Blinken didn't really commit to anything new today. But of course, the West has already provided a lot of weapons to this conflict. The U.S. has sent $1.7 billion worth of weapons aid since the invasion began in late February, including $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles that have been really effective, approved just by the White House just this week. And for a sense of the sentiment among the Ukrainian military, I want to just play a clip for you that has stuck with me this week that I really think illustrates it. This is a Ukrainian special operation soldier that I spoke to. He's anonymous for operational reasons. But here's what he had to say on this subject.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Ukrainian).

SULLIVAN: He's saying, you know, we can do this on our own. Just give us good weapons. Give us the tanks, the artillery. You don't have to close the sky. Just provide us with the right stuff, and we'll mess them up by ourselves. Just imagine that with a little stronger language, though.

DETROW: A lot of strong language from Ukrainian soldiers when they talk about how they're approaching Russian soldiers. NPR's Becky Sullivan in Kyiv, thanks so much.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.