U.S. promises aid and return of diplomats to Kyiv

STORY: "We are back. The reason we are back is because of you."

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv late on Sunday (April 24) to announce a gradual return of U.S. diplomats to Ukraine and more military aid.

They said their visit proved Ukraine's success so far in holding out against Russia's invasion.

Just weeks ago, Kyiv was on the frontline under curfew and bombardment, with tens of thousands of Russian troops massing on its northern outskirts and residents sheltering in metro stations.

Now life is returning to normal, though the war grinds on in the south and east.

This was Blinken during their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, after their arrival by train from Poland.

"As a further sign of our commitment, I intend to announce the return of our diplomats to Ukraine. I think we will start probably in Lviv and then move to Kyiv."

Russia has sent more troops in to eastern Ukraine, where it launched a massive assault last week in an attempt to capture provinces known as the Donbas.

The U.S. officials pledged new assistance worth $713 million both for Zelenskiy's government - as it fends off the eastern advance - and nearby countries that fear further aggression by Moscow.

An extra $322 million in military aid for Ukraine would take U.S. security assistance since the invasion to about $3.7 billion, according to one official.

This was Austin at the meeting, which one U.S. official said ran for three hours, or more than double the allotted time.

"What you've done in repelling the Russians in the battle of Kyiv was extraordinary and inspiring, quite frankly, to the rest of the world. We are here to support you in every way possible."

Their visit highlighted the shift in the conflict since Ukrainian forces, armed with a massive influx of weapons from the West, successfully repelled a Russian assault on Kyiv.

A Zelenskiy aide told NBC News that before the visit, Ukraine had drawn up a list of weapons urgently needed from the United States, such as anti-missile systems, anti-aircraft systems, armored vehicles and tanks.

The Western arms supply to Ukraine has infuriated Moscow, which calls its invasion a "special military operation".

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