CIA director visits Kiev amid Russian missile strikes across Ukraine


CIA Director Bill Burns flew to Kiev on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his intelligence colleagues, a US official said.

Burns, the official said, was safely in the U.S. embassy during Russian missile attacks across the country, including blasts that rocked the nation’s capital.

The CIA director’s trip to Kiev on Monday followed a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, with fellow Russian intelligence official Sergey Naryshkin, and is the second known visit to Kiev in less than a month.

While there, Burns said, he “discussed the U.S. warning to Russia’s SVR chief not to use nuclear weapons and reinforced the U.S. commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.”

The flurry of back-channel communications comes less than a week after Russia announced its withdrawal from a key Ukrainian city and a quiet debate has begun in Washington over whether to push for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine war. In addition, the US is increasingly concerned that Russia may resort to a nuclear weapon in an offensive attack.

Burns and other US officials have said publicly that they see no evidence that Moscow is actively preparing to take such a step, but officials familiar with the intelligence have warned that the risk is perhaps the highest since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

President Joe Biden has turned to Burns, a seasoned diplomat with deep experience in Russia, as a silent messenger in the ongoing conflict.

Burns was sent to Ankara on Monday to “manage risks with Russia, particularly nuclear risk and risks to strategic stability,” a national security spokesman said. The spokesperson pointed out that he has not made any negotiations.

In Kiev in October, “the US reinforced its commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, including continued intelligence sharing,” a US official told CNN at the time.

Burns was sent to Moscow last November, before Russia invaded Ukraine, to warn the Kremlin about the consequences of an invasion. He has also participated in discussions with Naryshkin about US citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.