US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has canceled his participation in important meetings on Ukraine and NATO due to health problems. Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder announced in Washington on Monday that he would not travel to Brussels this week as planned.

According to the information, a meeting of the international contact group to coordinate arms aid for Ukraine on Wednesday will now take place virtually. Austin will attend if he can. At the NATO defense ministers' meeting on Thursday, he will be represented by the US ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith.

Austin undergoing treatment for cancer

The politician, who was suffering from prostate cancer, was admitted to hospital on Sunday with an acute bladder problem and was transferred to the intensive care unit after a series of tests and examinations. He handed over his duties to deputy Kathleen Hicks.

The attending physician at Walter Reed Military Hospital near Washington said on Monday that Austin had undergone a non-surgical procedure under general anesthesia. He will continue to be observed overnight, but a longer stay is not expected. It is assumed that he will be able to return to work on Tuesday. The prognosis for his cancer remains excellent.

Biden wants to stick with Austin as defense secretary

The 70-year-old defense minister made his illness public in mid-January, but came under criticism because he initially kept both the diagnosis and a hospital stay as a result of complications from an operation secret. Even US President Joe Biden did not know for several days that his defense minister was in the hospital. Austin apologized for the lack of transparency.

Asked whether the president had concerns that Austin would no longer be able to hold office because of his health problems, White House communications director John Kirby said on Monday: “Absolutely not.”