William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, traveled to Kyiv last week for secret consolations with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials.
Since just before the invasion, Mr. Burns has made periodic visits to Ukraine to meet with intelligence officials and to convey information to Mr. Zelensky.
Mr. Burns, whose trip was confirmed by U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, is just the latest high-level U.S. official to visit Ukraine. On Monday, a delegation including Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman; Jon Finer, the principal deputy national security adviser; and Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, met with President Zelensky.
The C.I.A. attempts to keep Mr. Burns’s travels secret, and the agency never comments on the topic. But one U.S. official acknowledged Mr. Burns’s visit and said it was meant to “reinforce our continued support for Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression.”
The visit was earlier reported by The Washington Post.
A second American official said Mr. Burns’ visit was an intelligence mission designed “to ensure that information continues to flow both ways.”
The U.S. government has periodically complained that they know more about Russian military movements and plans than Ukraine’s. Ukraine has often been tight-lipped about their operational plans. But ahead of Ukraine’s September counteroffensive, its officials began to share more about their intentions, allowing the U.S. to provide intelligence that helped Ukraine’s military reshape their plans to target weak points in Russian lines.
Mr. Burns, a career diplomat, emerged early in the Biden administration as an emergency envoy and problem solver for the White House. And the intelligence relationship between Washington and Kyiv has been vital to the war effort. Ukraine is heavily dependent on insights from the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies on Russian planning.
Shortly before the invasion, Mr. Burns traveled to Ukraine to warn Mr. Zelensky and urge him to shore up defenses around Kyiv. The intelligence provided on that trip helped Ukraine fend off the initial attack by elite Russian airborne troops on Hostomel Airport, north of Kyiv.
On the latest trip,Mr. Burns also met with senior Ukrainian intelligence officials, though U.S. officials would not discuss the nature of those discussions.
The visit comes at an crucial point in the war. Ukraine is pushing for more heavy Western weapons, the Russian military has changed its general in command, and the war has ground into a stalemate over the winter, outside of the fighting in and around Bakhmut.