Blinken delivers desperately needed weapons and a message of support at a turning point for Ukraine.

Kyiv, Ukraine — Just above the Maidan, or “square” of independence where the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” first began in 2014, burned-out and shot-up carcasses of Russian tanks from the early fighting to repel Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine are on display.

A white marble statue of Saint Olga, the revered 10th-century crown princess who brought Christianity to ancient Kyiv, is adorned with a camouflage Kevlar vest as she casts her stern gaze down in judgment.

A white marble statue of Saint Olga, the 10th Century crown princess who brought Christianity to ancient Kyiv. (Photo by Charles Sennott/GroundTruth)

And there is a “Memory Wall for the Fallen Soldiers of Ukraine,” with thousands of small framed pictures of those killed since the invasion. The photos line a stucco wall that encloses and protects Saint Michael’s Monastery with its blue Byzantine architecture and a glistening golden dome.

A tank with Ukrainian flags and the words “Glory to Ukraine” in front of Saint Michael’s Monastery. (Photo by Charles Sennott/GroundTruth)

It was against this backdrop laden with symbols depicting Ukraine’s long history of resilience and hope –as ancient as the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church and as contemporary as yesterday’s headlines of war – that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on Wednesday.

Flanked by an intense security presence, Blinken came with a bouquet of red roses to leave at the Memory Wall and a message of assurance to the people of Ukraine. He addressed the delay in U.S. military aid, finally approved by a bitterly divided congress last month, and vowed that the U.S. will now rush more ammunition and air defense systems to a country left holding its breath as a new Russian offensive intensifies in the northern city of Kharkiv.

“I have come to Ukraine with a message: You are not alone. The United States has been by your side from day one. We’re with you today. And we will stay by your side, until Ukraine’s security, its sovereignty, its ability to choose its own path is guaranteed,” Blinken said in a speech.

“After the delay in approving the latest U.S. assistance package to Ukraine – a delay that left you more vulnerable to Russia’s attacks – some Ukrainians may be wondering whether you can count on America to sustain its commitment,” Blinken said, adding, “As President Biden said, we want Ukraine to win – and we’re committed to helping you do it.”

“Winning on the battlefield will prevent Ukraine from becoming part of Russia. Winning the war against corruption will keep Ukraine from becoming like Russia.”

“Ukraine’s defenses against corruption have to be just as strong as its military defenses. And we know what those defenses are: an independent judiciary; a free press; a vibrant inclusive civil society; free and fair elections independent, empowered anti-corruption investigators, prosecutors and judges.”

“I have every confidence that together we will get through these difficult moments and together help build a country that is free, that’s prosperous, that’s secure, that writes its own future.”

Honor guards salute place an Ukrainian flag onto the coffin of Ukrainian army paramedic Nazarii Lavrovskyi, 31, killed in the war, during his funeral ceremony at Independence square in Kyiv, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Photo by Francisco Seco/Associated Press)

After he bowed his head solemnly at the Memory Wall, Blinken walked shoulder to shoulder with his counterpart, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, to the ministry building just steps from the monastery.

At a press conference, Blinken stressed that the new weapons, including artillery shells, ATACMs, Patriot air-defense batteries and armored vehicles, will be rushed up to the frontlines. He said they will provide critical support to Ukrainian troops that have been suffering losses in and around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has capitalized on a moment of opportunity calling for an onslaught of Lancet kamikaze drone strikes.

In Kharkiv, which normally has a population of 1 million, there are dire reports from the frontline, as tens of thousands of civilians are evacuating villages on the border amid a chaotic surge in fighting that has caught Ukraine off guard.

Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Photo by Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press)

Meanwhile, the fighting continues to rage in the Eastern Donbas region as Russia seeks to step up attacks amid the delay in re-supplying operations that are underway right now.

It feels like the war has hit a new ferocity – and perhaps a pivotal turning point — this week, and it feels like Ukraine is drained. There are scenes in train stations where wounded soldiers are trying to make their way home, and there are bars filled with the surly looks of young men who are either traumatized by the war or by the prospect that they are soon to be enlisted into it.

The Ukrainian government has stepped up its mobilization for the war effort and giving little comfort to men between the ages of 18 and 60 who must all be registered with the government for military service, only those over 25 years old with a clean bill of health will actually be mandated to serve.

Blinken himself looked tired. This was his fourth visit to Ukraine since the war started, on the heels of his seventh visit to Israel, since that war started in Gaza just eight months ago. The strain of two fateful military conflicts in which the U.S. is delicately balancing its role, were evident.

And there is a similar air of fatigue across Ukraine. People look drained by more than two years of war. A new series of Russian attacks on the energy grid is wreaking havoc across the country. And there is a realization that national and international news organizations are recording a drop off in interest in war coverage while the world seems to have turned its focus to the Middle East.

Blinken sought to turn up the volume on the American presence on this trip and broke out an electric guitar as a diplomatic tool.

At the legendary Barman Dictat, which is frequented by veterans and hipsters alike in the city center, Blinken took to the stage with a popular Ukrainian rock band and launched into the power chords of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.”

The vocals were perhaps a bit off key, and there were differing opinions on whether or not the message itself in this rock n’ roll statesmanship was in tune with Ukraine.

Hanna Hopko, co-founder of the International Center for Ukrainian Victory and a prominent analyst who met with the Blinken delegation, said she was less than impressed by Blinken’s musical appearance. She said his remarks on corruption were strident, which is understandable, but he seems to be missing the urgency of the moment on the frontlines.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Lviv Journalism Conference, Hopko said, “Don’t get me wrong, I love rock n’ roll, but it was hard to watch that having just come from Kharkiv where the fighting is very intense. You can’t help but think how much better a performance it would have been for him to visit with soldiers in Kharkiv and bring two more Patriot missile batteries.”