A Russian missile struck an open-air market in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, resulting in the tragic loss of 17 lives and injuring dozens. This devastating event unfolded as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his fourth visit to Ukraine, bearing over $1 billion in fresh American aid, encompassing military and humanitarian assistance.

The missile strike occurred in Kostiantynivka, near the Donetsk region’s front lines, transforming the bustling marketplace into a horrifying scene. It stands as one of the most lethal attacks on civilians throughout the 18-month-long conflict. In addition to the fatalities, at least 32 individuals sustained injuries.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, emphasized during a press conference with the Danish prime minister in Kyiv that the targeted area was unmistakably a civilian space. No military units were in close proximity, making it evident that the strike was deliberate.

The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, underscored the brutality of Russian attacks, emphasizing the continued necessity of supporting the Ukrainian people.

Blinken’s visit aimed to assess Ukraine’s three-month-old counteroffensive while reaffirming unwavering U.S. support. Some Western allies have expressed concerns about Kyiv’s gradual progress against the invading Russian forces.

Blinken stated, “We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs, not only to succeed in the counteroffensive but also to ensure that it has a strong deterrent for the long-term. We’re also determined to continue to work with our partners as they build and rebuild a strong economy and democracy.”

Out of the total aid, roughly $175 million will be in the form of weaponry sourced from Pentagon stockpiles, while an additional $100 million will be provided as grants to enable Ukraine to purchase more arms and equipment. Furthermore, Blinken announced nearly $805 million in non-military aid for Ukraine, covering law enforcement, humanitarian assistance, anti-corruption efforts, and mine removal.

The aid package also includes the transfer of $5.4 million in previously frozen Russian oligarch assets to Ukraine.

It’s worth noting that this aid comes from funds previously approved by Congress. While President Joe Biden has requested an additional $21 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine for the final months of 2023, the approval remains uncertain. Some Republican lawmakers are cautious about providing more aid, and public support for the war in the United States has waned, as indicated by opinion polls.

Nonetheless, both Biden and the Pentagon have reiterated their commitment to support Ukraine for as long as necessary. As of August 29, around $5.75 billion from already approved funding for weapons and equipment remained available.

Apart from discussing military aid, Blinken also explored other issues during his visit, including supporting Ukraine’s economy and modernizing its energy network, which had been targeted by Russia in the previous winter.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that U.S. assistance to Ukraine would not influence the ongoing military operation.

Blinken’s visit coincided with a missile attack on Kyiv by Russia. Upon his arrival in Kyiv, he laid a wreath at the Berkovetske cemetery to honor Ukrainian troops who lost their lives defending the country.

Blinken expressed encouragement for the progress in Ukraine’s counteroffensive during meetings with Ukrainian officials. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal expressed gratitude that U.S. aid came in the form of grants, avoiding debt for Ukraine.

Overnight, Russia launched cruise missiles at Kyiv, marking its first aerial attack on the capital since August 30. The attack caused damage but no casualties.

In the Odesa region, a Russian missile and drone strike on the port of Izmail resulted in one fatality and extensive damage to grain elevators, administrative buildings, and agricultural enterprises.

This visit marked Blinken’s fourth to Ukraine since the conflict began, underscoring U.S. support for the nation in its ongoing struggle. While challenges persist, both Ukraine and its international allies remain committed to the defense of the country and the pursuit of peace.”

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Lolita Baldor, Mstyslav Chernov and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.

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