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CIA Director Burns traveled to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky

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William J. Burns, the director of the CIA, visited Kyiv last week for secret consultations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to two US officials.

Since just before the invasion, Mr. Burns has made periodic visits to Ukraine to meet with intelligence officials and relay information to Mr. Zelensky.

Mr Burns, whose trip was confirmed by US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, is just the latest senior US official to visit Ukraine. On Monday, a delegation including Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman; Jon Finer, the senior deputy national security adviser; and Colin H. Kahl, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, met with President Zelensky.

The CIA tries to keep Mr. Burns’ travels a secret, and the agency never comments on the matter. But a US official acknowledged Mr Burns’ visit and said it was aimed at “strengthening our continued support for Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression”.

The visit was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

A second US official said Mr Burns’ visit was an intelligence mission designed “to ensure that information continues to flow both ways”.

The US government has regularly complained that it knows more about Russian military moves and plans than Ukraine. Kyiv has often been silent on its operational plans. But ahead of September’s Ukrainian counteroffensive, its officials began to share their intentions more, allowing the United States to provide intelligence that helped the Kyiv army reshape its plans to target weak spots in Russian lines.

Mr. Burns, a career diplomat, emerged early in the Biden administration as an emergency envoy and problem-solver for the White House. And the intelligence relationship between Washington and Kyiv has been vital to the war effort. Ukraine relies heavily on information from the CIA and other intelligence agencies about Russian planning.

Shortly before the invasion, Mr. Burns traveled to Ukraine to warn Mr. Zelensky and urge him to strengthen the defenses around Kyiv. The intelligence provided during this trip helped Ukraine repel the initial attack by elite Russian airborne troops on Hostomel airport, north of Kyiv.

On the latest trip, Burns also met with senior Ukrainian intelligence officials, although US officials did not discuss the nature of those discussions.

The visit comes at a crucial time in the war. Ukraine is pushing for more heavy Western weapons, the Russian military has changed overall commanders, and the war has come to a stalemate over the winter, apart from fighting in and around Bakhmut.

nytimes Gt

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