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In Kyiv, Blinken Adds Rock Notes to a ‘Free World’ Message

At the end of a somber day in the Ukrainian capital, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken slipped into a seat at Barman Dictat, a crowded basement cocktail bar where a punk-jazz band was squealing away.

After a few songs, the band’s frontman called Mr. Blinken onstage on Tuesday and, by prearrangement, America’s top diplomat slung a red Gibson guitar over his shoulder.

“I know this is a really, really difficult time,” said Mr. Blinken, who had discarded his typical dark suit and tie for blue jeans and a dark button-down shirt. It was a reference to recent Russian military gains. Ukraine’s soldiers, particularly in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, he said, “are suffering tremendously.”

“But they need to know, you need to know, the United States is with you, so much of the world is with you,” he said, hitting the core message of his unannounced visit to Kyiv, a trip intended in part to spotlight nearly $61 billion in additional military aid signed into law by President Biden in April after months of delays mainly caused by a small band of right-wing House Republicans.

The troops, he said under bright stage lights, “are fighting not just for a free Ukraine but for the free world — and the free world is with you too.”

“So, maybe we can try something?” he added. “I don’t know if we can pull this off.”

A moment later, the band had started up, and Mr. Blinken — a longtime guitarist who has played in bands and even has a few tracks available on Spotify — began strumming the opening chords of Neil Young’s anthemic “Rockin’ in the Free World” with at least basic competence.

Read more on nytimes.com