US top diplomat Blinken in Ukraine for talks with president

MOSCOW — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived for a one-day visit that is highly anticipated in the country as it faces heightened tensions with Russia.

The top American diplomat arrived late Wednesday. He is to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

The Ukrainian leader has said he wants to hear strong signals from the United States supporting Ukraine’s desire to join the NATO military alliance.

Ukraine is also expected to push for more military aid from the U.S. amid rising hostilities from Russia-backed separatist rebels in the east of the country. Ukraine’s military says 34 of its soldiers have been killed by rebel attacks this year, a significant upswing from the quiet months of the latter part of 2020.

Russia also raised tensions this year with largescale military exercises near the border with Ukraine.