U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived by train Monday for an unannounced visit to Ukraine's capital Kyiv. Austin said in a social media post that he was visiting "to deliver an important message" that the U.S. "will continue standing with Ukraine to fight for their freedom against, both now and in the future."
Austin was expected to meet Ukrainian officials to discuss theas the Biden administration seeks to reassure Kyiv that it will provide the weapons and other battlefield capabilities needed to repel Russia's invading forces over the winter months.
Austin's visit to Kyiv came shortly after Ukraine's military announced new advances into Russian-held ground in the east of the country.
Ukrainian forces have crossed the Dnipro River in the Kherson region and pushed two to five miles into territory that had been occupied for months by Russian troops, according to preliminary information shared by Ukrainian military spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk.
If confirmed, it would be Ukraine's first significant military advance in months as intense fighting continues near the cities of Kupiansk and Avdiivka.
With the brutal Ukrainian winter fast approaching, Russia has intensified missile and explosive-laden drone attacks all along the front line, which stretches for roughly 600 miles, north to south across eastern Ukraine — and even far from it.
The Ukrainian military said it shot down 15 of 20 drones launched at Kyiv and two other regions on Sunday. No casualties were reported.
The southeast city of Kherson, however, was not spared. The governor of the surrounding Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said two people were killed Monday morning as Russia shelled the parking lot of a transport company in the regional capital.
Kherson was the only major city ever to fall into Russian hands since President Vladimir Putin's military launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Russia has continued targeting Kherson with missiles and artillery since itsabout one year ago amid Ukraine's grinding counteroffensive.
That counteroffensive has made desperately little progress on the ground since it was launched in earnest in June 2023, and with the war between Israel and Hamas taking so much global attention away from Ukraine, Austin's visit and reaffirmation of U.S. backing on Monday were a welcome boost for Kyiv.
If the advance across the Dnieper River is confirmed, it would be a significant further boost, and may help keep politicians in Washington and Europe inclined to back Ukraine's war effort.
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