Biden pledges continued support for Kyiv at White House meeting with Zelenskyy

President Joe Biden pledged to continue US military support for Kyiv in a highly-symbolic Oval Office meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the Ukrainian president’s first foreign trip since Russia invaded more than 300 days ago.

Wearing a striped tie in Ukraine’s national colours of blue and yellow, Biden told Zelenskyy he was “delighted” his counterpart could visit even as Russia was escalating assaults on Ukrainian civilians and “trying to use winter as a weapon”. He pledged the two countries would maintain a “united defence”.

Shortly before Zelenskyy arrived in Washington, his aides announced $1.85bn in new lethal assistance for Kyiv, including the long-coveted advanced Patriot missile defence system.

“We will support Ukraine pursuing a just peace,” Biden said.

Zelenskyy, clad in his customary military green cargo pants and a sweatshirt with Ukraine’s state emblem, described his visit as “a great honour” and said he had wanted to come earlier.

He thanked Biden, Congress and “ordinary people” in the US for their support, and presented the US president with a medal awarded to the captain of a unit in the Donbas that uses Himars — a US-supplied mobile artillery system — which the soldier asked to be passed to Biden.

Zelenskyy’s visit comes at a critical moment in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Officials in Kyiv have warned Moscow is gearing up for a possible winter offensive as Ukraine fends off Russian attacks on two fronts: on the ground, where grinding combat between the militaries is under way, and in the skies, where Moscow has pummeled Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure.

Western weaponry will be critical for Ukraine’s ability to maintain its defences. Kyiv has long sought the Patriot system, which analysts say will be a powerful addition to the country’s air defences, although it will not offer immediate respite from the mass Russian missile and drone attacks that are smashing Ukraine’s power infrastructure.

A senior American defence official said the Patriots will complement other weaponry already provided by the US and its Nato allies.

“For air defence, there is no silver bullet,” the official said. “Patriot will complement a range of medium and short range air defence capabilities that we’ve provided and the allies have provided in prior donation packages.”

Ukrainian forces will need several months of training before they will be able to employ the system successfully, the official said.

The Biden administration sought to use the visit to showcase US support for Ukraine as the country heads into a tough winter. Biden and his wife Jill greeted Zelenskyy outside the White House shortly after Ukraine’s leader touched down outside Washington on a US air force plane, which flew to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland from Poland.

Later in the day, Zelenskyy is due to address a joint session of Congress before returning to Kyiv.

In addition to the Patriot system, the US also announced it will for the first time transfer joint direct attack munitions, which convert unguided aerial munitions into “smart bombs”, allowing Ukrainian forces to more precisely target Russian military positions.

The US will train Ukrainian troops on the Patriot system, likely in Germany, for weeks before it arrives in Ukraine. It is expected to take some time before the system is operational on the battlefield.

Congress is also set to vote this week on a spending bill that includes $45bn in additional funds for Kyiv. The US has already committed tens of billions of dollars in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

However, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have suggested that passing additional aid for Kyiv will be more challenging next year when they take control of the lower chamber of Congress.

The Kremlin on Wednesday said it did not expect any positive developments or changes in Kyiv’s position on peace talks following Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington.

“The weapons supply to Ukraine continues, and their range is expanding. It leads to the conflict aggravation and does not bode Ukraine any good,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Additional reporting by Aime Williams in Washington, Anastasia Stognei in Riga and Christopher Miller in Kyiv

#Biden #pledges #continued #support #Kyiv #White #House #meeting #Zelenskyy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: