The CIA director briefed Zelensky on US expectations of Russia’s battlefield planning


CIA Director Bill Burns briefed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last week about U.S. expectations for Russia’s battlefield planning in the spring, according to a U.S. official and two Ukrainian sources familiar with the meeting.

The secret meeting comes at a time when US officials are watching closely a potential Russian offensive in the coming months – and in the midst of a tense debate between the US and its European allies over whether to send increasingly sophisticated, long-range weapons to Ukraine. Western military leaders are due to meet on Friday to discuss additional arms supplies to Ukraine.

“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv where he met with Ukrainian intelligence colleagues as well as President Zelensky and reinforced our continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression,” a US official said in a statement.

The Washington Post reported for the first time the meeting.

Burns, a veteran diplomat, has become a trusted interlocutor in Kyiv, and last week’s trip was not his first. He made two known back-to-back trips to Kyiv in October and November last year, including one that took place amid a series of Russian missile strikes across the country.

The winter months saw brutal fighting on the front lines, especially around the town of Bakhmut, but without major strategic gains on either side. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, called it “not a stalemate, but a really tough conflict at this stage.”

But both countries are believed to be preparing for potential offensives in the spring, and Kyiv continues to press the United States and its Western allies for more support in their fight to hit back at Russia. One Ukrainian source told CNN that Kyiv has become concerned about the pace of arms shipments to Ukraine – a growing fear as Republicans, some of whom are skeptical of aid to Ukraine, hold a majority in the US House of Representatives.

The Pentagon on Thursday announced a $2.5 billion security package for Ukraine – the second largest ever announced by the US. The assistance included Stryker combat vehicles for the first time and included more Bradley combat vehicles.

The Biden administration, however, remains at odds with Germany on whether to send tanks to Ukraine, with German officials indicating in recent days that they would not send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine or allow any other country with German-made tanks to do so unless the US also agrees to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.

The Pentagon has said for months that it has no intention of doing so given the logistical costs of maintaining them.

Watch: Germany won’t send its tanks to Ukraine unless it happens

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