U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday he discussed Russian aggression in Ukraine during more than five hours of talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in which he raised concerns about Beijing’s alignment with Moscow.
The meeting took place as officials attended a gathering of G-20 foreign ministers on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“I shared again with the state councilor that we are concerned about the PRC’s alignment with Russia,” Blinken said at a news conference after the talks, referring to the People’s Republic of China. The top U.S. diplomat said he did not think China was behaving in a neutral way, as it had supported Russia in the United Nations and “amplified Russian propaganda.”
Blinken said Chinese President Xi Jinping had made it clear in a call with President Vladimir Putin on June 13 that he stood by a decision to form a partnership with Russia.
U.S. officials have warned of consequences, including sanctions, should China offer material support for the war that Moscow calls a “special military operation” to degrade the Ukrainian military. Kyiv and its Western allies say the invasion is an unprovoked land grab.
Asked about his refusal to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the G-20, Blinken said, “The problem is this: we see no signs whatsoever that Russia, at this moment in time, is prepared to engage in meaningful diplomacy.”
Wang exchanged in-depth views on “the Ukraine issue” during Saturday’s talks, according to a statement released by his ministry, without giving details.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers are in Britain to receive training on the front-line skills needed to battle the Russian forces that have invaded Ukraine. The Ukrainians are stationed at various British Defense Ministry locations across the country.
The approximately 1,000 Ukrainians in Britain are the first of about 10,000 expected to participate in the program developed by the British army.
“Using the world-class expertise of the British army we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale-up its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their own future,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
The United States is sending more military aid to Ukraine aimed at helping Ukrainian forces target, disrupt and destroy Russia’s ability to wage war in the Donbas region and beyond.
New weapons package
U.S. officials Friday unveiled a new $400 million military package for Ukraine, including four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and 1,000 rounds of 155 mm “precision capable” artillery ammunition, a type that has not been provided to Kyiv until now.
In addition to the new HIMARS and the precision 155 mm artillery rounds, the new U.S security package also includes more ammunition for the eight HIMARS already in Ukraine, tactical vehicles, demolition munitions, counter battery systems and spare parts to help Ukrainian forces maintain systems that are getting heavy use.
“These [weapons systems] are precise,” a senior U.S. defense official said, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. “We expect them to be used by the Ukrainians to great effect given their success so far.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the Biden administration on Twitter for the military equipment, which he described as priority needs.
“It is what helps us press on the enemy,” he said.
The U.S. expressed high hopes for the new, precision artillery rounds.
“It offers Ukraine precise targeting, precise capability for specific targets. It will save ammunition. It will be more effective due to the precision,” the official said. “So, it’s a further evolution in our support for Ukraine in this battle in the Donbas.”
But the U.S. hopes the latest package, part of what is being described as a “steady drumbeat” of support, does more.
“A big element of what we are looking at now is that lift, which is vital for the Ukrainians to be able to continue the fight and most importantly, I would say, for the Russians to know that the Ukrainians are going to be able to continue the fight,” the official said.
U.S. officials have been quick to praise Ukrainian forces for the way they have integrated an earlier shipment of eight HIMARS into their efforts to slow the Russian advance in the Donbas and, in some cases, managing to hold the Russian forces at bay.
“We know that they’re going after targets that have major effect on the battlefield,” said a second senior U.S. defense official, also briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The Ukrainians are targeting “command and control nodes, and logistics supply areas — all those things that although they’re not on the front line, have a big-time impact,” the official said. “Many of the ammunition locations that they’ve destroyed have had a significant impact on the (Russian) organizations they were meant to resupply.”
So far, more than 100 Ukrainian troops have been trained about how to use the system, and U.S. officials held out the possibility more HIMARS and other similar systems could be included in future aid packages.
The announcement of additional U.S. aid comes just days after Russian forces declared victory in Ukraine’s Luhansk province, after Ukrainian forces retreated from their last stronghold in city of Lysychansk.
Western intelligence assessments believe Russian forces are now positioning themselves for a push into the Donetsk region.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.