Commanders-in-chief of the United States and Ukraine met in person for the first time

The meeting comes at a time when the international community is ramping up military assistance to Ukraine, including expanded training for Ukrainian U.S. troops.

A senior US military officer, General of the Army Mark Milley, visited a site near the Ukrainian-Polish border on Tuesday and spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time. at a critical time when Russia’s war with Ukraine is approaching the one-year mark.

Milli, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, for a couple of hours at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland. The two leaders have often spoken about Ukraine’s military needs and the state of war over the past year, but have never met.

The meeting comes at a time when the international community is ramping up military assistance to Ukraine, including increased training of Ukrainian troops by the US and the provision of a Patriot missile battery, tanks and enhanced air defense systems and other weapons by the US and a coalition of European military forces. and other nations.

It also marks a key time in the war. Ukrainian forces are fighting fierce battles in the east of the Donetsk region, where Russian troops, augmented by thousands of Wagner Group private contractors, are trying to turn the tide after a series of battlefield setbacks in recent months.

Army Colonel Dave Butler, Milley’s spokesman, told two reporters traveling with the chairman that the two generals felt it was important to meet in person. The journalists did not accompany Milli to the meeting and, on conditions set by the military, agreed not to name the military base in southeastern Poland where they were.

“These guys have been talking very regularly for about a year now and they got to know each other better,” Butler said. “They spoke in detail about the defense that Ukraine is trying to make against Russian aggression. And this is important – when two military professionals look into each other’s eyes and talk about very, very important topics, there is a difference.

Butler said there was some hope that Zaluzhny would travel to Brussels to meet with NATO and other defense officials this week, but when it became clear on Monday that this would not happen, they quickly decided to meet in Poland, near the border.

While a number of U.S. civilian leaders have left for Ukraine, the Biden administration has made it clear that no uniformed troops will go to Ukraine other than those associated with the embassy in Kyiv. Butler said that only a small group – Millie and six of his senior employees – came to the meeting by car.

He said the meeting would allow Milli to convey Zaluzhny’s concerns and information to other military leaders during the meeting of NATO leaders. Millie, he says, will be able to “describe the tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and what the military needs to do, and the way he does it is to figure it out himself, but also talking to Zaluzhny on a regular basis.” “.

Millie will also be able to describe the new training of Ukrainian forces that the United States is conducting at the Grafenwöhr training ground in Germany. The chairman, who first read the new so-called combined arms instruction during a nearly two-hour visit there on Monday, said it would better prepare Ukrainian troops to launch an offensive or repel any wave of Russian attacks.

More than 600 Ukrainian troops began an expanded training program at the camp just a day before Millie’s arrival.

Millie and Zaluzhny’s meeting marked the beginning of a series of high-level meetings between military and defense leaders this week. Millie and other defense officials will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a so-called Contact Group on Ukraine meeting on Thursday and Friday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This group includes about 50 senior military officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and they work to coordinate the military contribution to Ukraine.

The meetings are expected to focus on Ukraine’s current and future military needs as rugged terrain turns into muddy roads and fields during the winter months.

After months of losing captured territory, Russia has in recent days claimed to have taken control of the small salt town of Soledar. Ukraine claims its troops are still fighting, but if Moscow’s troops take control of Soledar, it will allow them to move closer to the larger town of Bakhmut, where fighting has been raging for months.

And over the weekend, Russia launched a series of airstrikes on Kyiv, Kharkiv in the northeast, and the Dnieper River in the southeast, where the death toll in a single apartment building rose to 44.

Western analysts point to signs that the Kremlin is preparing for a protracted war and say Russian military commanders are preparing for an expanded mobilization.

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