By Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON -The U.S. top diplomat to Ukraine Kristina Kvien and her team arrived in Kyiv on Sunday, officials said, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised on a visit last month to reopen the U.S. embassy in the Ukrainian capital soon.
The move is the latest step toward the resumption of a full U.S. presence in Kyiv after diplomats began returning to the western city of Lviv last month, having left the country ahead of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion out of security concerns.
The trip, timed to commemorate Victory in Europe Day on Sunday, was a temporary visit and does not signal the reopening of the embassy, a senior State Department official said. Russia celebrates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany on its Victory Day on Monday.
Blinken spoke to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Sunday and informed Kuleba that a small group led by Charge d’Affaires Kvien “traveled to Kyiv to conduct diplomatic engagement in advance of the planned resumption of Embassy Kyiv operations,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
The group was accompanied by State Department security, Price said.
Videos posted on social media on Sunday showed a motorcade rolling into the embassy compound.
The team is the first delegation from the Biden administration to visit Ukraine’s capital since the invasion, aside from Blinken’s visit alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Blinken and Austin did not visit the embassy.
U.S. first lady Jill Biden separately made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Sunday, crossing into a border town from Slovakia and meeting Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska.
Blinken has instructed officials to work toward getting diplomats back in Kyiv as soon as possible “consistent with the safety and security imperatives,” the senior State Department official said.
“The secretary relayed to his senior team and to Foreign Minister Kuleba that our return to Kyiv is a testament to Ukraine’s success, Moscow’s failure, and our effective and enduring partnership with the government and people of a sovereign, democratic, and free Ukraine,” the official said.