U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Tuesday, marking his fourth trip to the embattled country since Russia's invasion began in February 2022. This diplomatic mission comes shortly after Congress approved a substantial $60 billion aid package intended to bolster Ukraine's defense capabilities.

Upon arrival in Kyiv, Blinken met with key Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The U.S. State Department emphasized that the visit aimed to underscore America's unwavering support for Ukraine amid escalating Russian aggression.

"He will emphasize America's commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democracy in the face of Russia's ongoing aggression," the State Department stated. The visit coincides with a critical moment as Russian forces have launched a new offensive along Ukraine's northeastern border, capturing significant territory and intensifying attacks.

Blinken assured Ukrainian officials that the new U.S. military aid, now en route to Ukraine, would significantly impact the battlefield. "We know this is a challenging time," Blinken acknowledged during his meetings. "But the American military aid is going to make a real difference against the ongoing Russian aggression on the battlefield."

The latest aid package, signed by President Joe Biden, includes $1.4 billion in immediate military assistance and $6 billion in longer-term support. This support comes as Ukrainian forces struggle to repel Russian advances in the Kharkiv region and other northern border areas, where fighting has displaced thousands of civilians.

The renewed Russian offensive is the most significant since the early days of the war. Regional authorities report that over 7,500 civilians have been evacuated from the Kharkiv area alone. Ukrainian officials have called for more air defense systems to protect against relentless Russian missile attacks.

Zelenskyy expressed gratitude for the U.S. aid but emphasized the urgent need for additional resources, including two Patriot air defense systems. "The people are under attack: civilians, warriors, everybody. They're under Russian missiles," Zelenskyy told Blinken.

The Biden administration has been working to expedite weapon shipments to Ukraine, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stating the effort is at a "10 out of 10" level of intensity. However, delays in aid, partly due to the Israel-Hamas conflict diverting attention, have raised concerns in Kyiv and among European allies.

During his trip, Blinken reaffirmed the U.S.'s long-term commitment to Ukraine's recovery and security. This includes discussions on economic support and strategic successes against Russian advances. Blinken's visit aims to reinforce Ukraine's resilience amid the ongoing war.

A senior U.S. official accompanying Blinken highlighted Ukraine's achievements despite recent setbacks, noting the reclamation of 50% of territory initially seized by Russia. The official stressed that new Western assistance would bolster Ukraine's confidence and capability on the battlefield.

As Blinken visited Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a forthcoming state visit to China, signaling ongoing geopolitical maneuvering. Beijing has provided political support to Moscow, contributing machine tools and electronics seen as aiding Russia's war effort.

The AP News contributed to this report.