- US announces $1.85 billion military aid package for Kyiv
- It was Zelenskiy’s first trip abroad since the start of the Russian invasion
- The visit is said to be aimed at increasing Kyiv’s ‘defense capabilities’
- US Patriot air batteries part of the new aid
- Putin supports increasing the size of the Russian army by 30%
WASHINGTON/KYIV, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said after arriving in Washington on Wednesday that he and President Joe Biden would discuss strengthening Kyiv’s defense capabilities against a terrorist attack. and Russia.
Zelenskiy’s political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said earlier that the visit, his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion 300 days ago, showed the deep trust between Kyiv and Washington and offered he has the opportunity to explain what weapons Kyiv needs.
“I will conduct various negotiations to strengthen the strength and power of the defense of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a message on Telegram alongside photos of himself in the United States. preparing to speak with Biden at the White House.
“Next year, the flag and freedom of Ukraine must be returned to all our country and all our people,” he said.
Wearing his olive green pants and shirt, Zelenskiy arrived at the White House. He met Biden and his wife in the forest, and Biden led the Ukrainian president with a hand on his back.
They will attend a joint news conference with the president of the United States and then go to Capitol Hill to address a session of the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
Before Zelenskiy’s arrival, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States would provide an additional $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine including the Patriot air defense system to help it avoid in the course of Russian missiles.
In recent weeks Ukraine has come under Russian missile and drone strikes targeting its power infrastructure, leaving millions of people without electricity or running water in danger of cold winter.
The Patriot is considered one of America’s most advanced air defense systems, providing protection against anti-aircraft attacks including aircraft and ballistic missiles.
“… Weapons, weapons and more weapons. It is important to explain to ourselves why we need certain types of weapons,” Podolyak said. “In particular, armored vehicles, modern missile defense systems and long-range missiles.”
Zelenskiy has made an effort to stay close to his people during the war and advocate for his former Soviet country on the world stage, with bold trips to the battlefields, numerous phone calls and leadership of the world and video-linked speeches to parliaments and institutions around the world.
White House Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC that diplomatic efforts will be discussed with Zelenskiy, but that the Ukrainian leader will not be pressured into peace talks.
Kirby said Washington has seen no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to make peace.
“Obviously we know that President Zelenskiy, when he leaves this country, we know that he is going with the full support of the United States going forward,” Kirby told MSNBC in in a separate interview earlier.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that it had not found an opportunity to talk about peace with Kyiv. In a conference call with reporters, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the continued flow of Western weapons to Ukraine would “deepen” the conflict.
GETTING SUCCESSFUL, PUTIN SPEAKS TO THE MILITARY
Putin denied it on Wednesday at the end-of-year meeting of the top leaders, saying that the Russian military is fighting like a hero in Ukraine, armed with modern weapons and achieving all goals. and Moscow.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 aiming to capture the capital Kyiv within days, a goal that failed.
Moscow then focused on advancing in the east and south but has been defeated on the battlefield since the summer – amid widespread reports of disengagement, poor training and poor equipment – and admits Putin said on Tuesday that the situation in Russia is “very difficult.”
In his speech on Wednesday, Putin said that there is no financial limit to what the government can provide for equipment and supplies, but that the army must learn and solve the problems it faced in Ukraine.
He supported his defense minister’s plan to increase the size of the army by more than 30% to 1.5 million combat personnel. Calling 300,000 in September caused problems, many men were not physically fit or too old and lacked basic equipment.
Putin also said that he still considers Ukrainians – who died in their tens of thousands, were forced to flee in their millions, and saw all the cities and towns destroyed – as a nation ” brother”.
He accused the war of “the third country (seeking) the destruction of the Russian world”, returning to a familiar theme. The West has dismissed this as absurd, calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine an imperial-style land grab.
ZELENSKIY Compared to CHURCHILL
As the United States is the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine among Western allies, the Biden administration has provided nearly $20 billion in aid to Ukraine, including ammunition, weapons for NASAMS air defense systems and high-altitude rocket systems (HIMARS).
Zelenskiy has repeatedly called on the West to provide more weapons, from new battle tanks to missile defense systems.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer compared Zelenskiy’s pursuit of Britain’s World War II leader, Winston Churchill, who asked for American aid against Nazi Germany.
“Where Winston Churchill stood generations ago, President Zelenskiy stands not only as a president, but as an ambassador for freedom,” the top Senate Democrat said. “This is not the time … to take our feet off the air when it comes to helping Ukraine.”
Reuters reports; Written by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Alex Richardson
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