Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba for lunch at a Kyiv McDonald’s Wednesday during a visit to show U.S. support for Ukraine ahead of the G20 Summit this weekend.
The pair traded stories from their time as college students and agreed that fast food was likely against their doctors’ recommendations.
“When I was a student, my best hangover food was to go to McDonald’s,” Kuleba told Blinken, adding he would order a double cheeseburger and “big Coke.”
“I’m sure that was very rare,” Blinken quipped, adding “That never happened to me.”
Responding to reporters, Blinken said his previous meeting with Kuleba had been “very good,” adding “I thought it was appropriate to make sure that we celebrated with some french fries and cherry pie.”
Kuleba explained that he had called Blinken earlier in the war and complained that McDonald’s withdrawal from Ukraine sent a bad message, as people lost jobs and suppliers lost contracts.
On that call, Blinken said he would look into what could be done, Kuleba said. A couple days later, the foreign minister said he received a call from the U.S. Embassy.
“I think having McDonald’s in the country is a message: a message of confidence,” he said. “This is how the comeback of McDonald’s started — in the phone conversation. And this is why we’re here tonight.”
On the previously undisclosed visit, Blinken announced $1 billion in aid for Ukraine, mostly focused on military and security assistance. He also planned to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal while in the country.
The visit is the secretary’s fourth trip to Ukraine and marks the first time that a U.S. official has slept overnight in Kyiv, which came under fire from Russian missiles just hours before Blinken arrived.
Ukraine has made incremental progress in its summer counteroffensive against Russia, reportedly penetrating initial Russian defensive lines in the south.
“We are moving forward,” Kuleba told CNN last week. “We’ve liberated dozens of square miles of land through minefields with no air coverage.”
The counteroffensive has disappointed some allies, whose criticism has annoyed the Ukrainian government. The country named a new defense minister, Rustem Umerov, this week, the first turnover in that position since the invasion began a year and a half ago.
Umerov’s selection fills a need for “new approaches” to the war, Zelensky said. He previously served as a chief negotiator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported to global markets, before Russia pulled out of the deal in July.