He was speaking during a visit to the town of Yahidne in northern Ukraine, where he toured a former elementary school in which some 300 people, including children, were held for a month by Russian forces shortly after last year’s invasion. The site has since been turned into a museum.
“The Russians had a lot of time in this case to prepare for the counteroffensive. They put tens of thousands of mines in places, other defensive fortifications,” he said. “The Ukrainians are working and going through it, but at the end of the day, they have a determination, they have a desire that will outmatch whatever the Russians put into this.”
Russian missile attack shows ‘what this means’
Blinken, the first senior U.S. official to visit since the Ukrainian counteroffensive began three months ago, flew into Kyiv on Wednesday where he met with Zelenskyy and other senior members of his government.
The first day of his visit was marred by a Russian missile attack on a market in the eastern city of Kostiantynivka. Ukrainian officials said 17 people, including a child, were killed and 38 injured in the strike.
“These were people who were simply going shopping, trying to put food on the table,” Blinken said. “So it’s so important not to lose sight of what this means to the men and women of Ukraine.”
Kostiantynivka is close to the front lines in the east, where Ukrainian forces have been battling to seize back occupied land before winter sets in.
Blinken announced a new package of U.S. wartime assistance worth more than $1 billion late Wednesday.
This included money for munitions, military financing and humanitarian assistance, as well as tackling corruption, the State Department said. More than $200 million was allocated to anti-corruption reforms and strengthening the justice sector.
The aid package is drawn from funding approved by Congress.
“Beyond even the equipment, beyond even the training, beyond even the resources that we’re giving them, fundamentally what they’re fighting for is what will make the difference,” Blinken said.
Ukraine had no choice but to fight on because Russian President Vladimir Putin “shows no evidence that he is interested in meaningful diplomacy,” he added.
Putin was “wrong” if he thought that “somehow he can outlast Ukraine, outlast us, outlast the dozens of countries that are supporting Ukraine,” Blinken said.