Washington renews its pledge to continue military aid to Kyiv for ‘as long as it takes’ to repel Russian invasion.
The United States has confirmed that it will transfer the advanced Patriot air defence system to Ukraine for the first time as part of a $1.85bn military aid package that coincided with the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Washington, DC.
The US Department of State announced the assistance on Wednesday, hours before Zelenskyy was set to meet with his US counterpart, Joe Biden.
“Today’s assistance for the first time includes the Patriot Air Defense System, capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided air defense systems,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The White House had said earlier that Zelenskyy’s visit will highlight Washington’s commitment to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance”.
The US Congress has overwhelmingly approved tens of billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in February.
In turn, the Biden administration has been dispensing the aid authorised by lawmakers through periodic assistance packages.
Wednesday’s US aid announcement to Ukraine is one of the largest so far. It brings the total of American assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration to $21.9bn, according to the Department of State.
Russia launched the invasion of its neighbour in February after a months-long standoff that saw Russian President Vladimir Putin demand an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.
But Moscow’s military campaign has been mired by setbacks. In recent months, Ukrainian forces – backed by US weaponry – recaptured large swaths of territory in a counteroffensive in the east of the country.
Moscow, which has been bombing Ukrainian infrastructure for weeks, has said that Western arms supplies to Kyiv would only exacerbate the conflict. The Kremlin recently warned the US against transferring Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.
I hope you’re having a good flight, Volodymyr. I’m thrilled to have you here. Much to discuss. https://t.co/SsRdsAnSDb
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 21, 2022
Zelenskyy is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday evening, where he is expected to call for more assistance for his country and sanctions against Russia. It is his first known trip outside the country since the Russian invasion in February.
“It’s always a high honour to welcome a foreign head of state to Congress, but it’s nearly unheard of to hear from a leader who is fighting for his life, fighting for his country’s survival, and fighting to preserve the very idea of democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the Ukrainian president’s arrival.
“It shows the importance President Zelenskyy places on us continuing to give him robust help.”
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