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Alongside Zelenskiy, Biden urges solidarity on Ukraine to continue in 2023

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2022-12-21T23:11:27Z

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the White House on Wednesday (December 21) with renewed assurances of U.S. support amid Russia’s continued onslaught on Ukraine.

President Joe Biden stood with Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the White House on Wednesday during the Ukrainian leader’s first wartime visit to urge Americans and the world to keep backing Kyiv in 2023, when congressional approval for aid will be harder.

The United States has sent about $50 billion in assistance to Kyiv as Europe’s biggest land conflict since World War Two drags on, killing tens of thousands of people, driving millions from their homes and reducing cities to ruins.

But some Republicans, who will take control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, have expressed concerns about the price tag, and European countries have suffered due to energy problems and the hit to the global economy.

“As we head into the New Year, it’s important for the American people, and for the world, to hear directly from you Mr President about Ukraine’s fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023,” said Biden at a news conference.

Neither NATO nor the European Union have been more united than about Ukraine, he added.

“The United States will stand up for our shared values, the values of freedom,” said Zelenskiy, wearing his trademark olive green pants and sweater.

“I believe that despite any changes in the composition of Congress, bicameral and bipartisan support will be maintained.”

Zelenskiy, who will seek more support during the trip, is due to address a joint session of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and meet Democratic and Republican leaders there.

Some hard-line Republicans have urged an end to the aid for Ukraine, instead calling for an audit to trace how the money previously allocated has been spent.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly called on the West to supply more advanced weaponry, ranging from modern battle tanks to missile defence systems, but Western allies have been cautious, keen to minimise any risk of provoking wider conflict with Russia.

Zelenskiy earlier presented Biden with a medal offered by a captain of a HIMARS rocket unit and expressed gratitude for the U.S. president’s role in helping Ukraine and rallying support.

Some in Moscow expected the invasion of Ukraine to achieve a rapid victory but it is instead passing its 300-day milestone.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the United States would provide another $1.85 billion in military aid for Ukraine including a Patriot air defence system to help it ward off barrages of Russian missiles.

Ukraine has come under repeated Russian missile and drone strikes targeting its energy infrastructure, leaving millions of people without electricity or running water in the dead of a freezing winter.

The Patriot missile is deemed to be one of the most advanced U.S. air defence systems, offering protection against attacking aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles.

Zelenskiy’s political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the visit would allow Ukraine to explain the need for more advanced weaponry.

“…Weapons, weapons and more weapons,” he told Reuters in written comments about goals for the trip. “In particular, armoured vehicles, the latest missile defence systems and long-range missiles.”

Zelenskiy has made a point of staying close to his people with daring trips to battlefronts and addresses to the nation nightly. , countless calls with world leaders and videolink speeches to parliaments and international institutions.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Washington was seeing no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to engage in peacemaking.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it saw no chance of peace talks with Kyiv. In a call with reporters, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that continued Western arms supplies to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict.

Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe the Kremlin’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.

Putin was defiant on Wednesday at an end-of-year meeting of top defence chiefs, saying Russian forces were fighting like heroes in Ukraine, would be equipped with modern weapons and would achieve all Moscow’s goals.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 aiming to capture the capital Kyiv in days, a goal that quickly proved out of reach.

Moscow then focused on advancing along eastern and southern fronts but has suffered a string of battlefield defeats since the summer.

Putin said there were no financial limits on what the government would provide in terms of equipment and hardware, but the army had to learn from and fix the problems it had experienced in Ukraine.

He gave his backing to a plan by his defence minister to boost the size of the armed forces by more than 30% to 1.5 million combat personnel.

Putin also said he still considered Ukrainians to be a “brotherly” people.

He blamed the war on “third countries (seeking) the disintegration of the Russian world”, revisiting a familiar theme. The West has rejected this as nonsense, calling Russian actions in Ukraine an imperial-style land grab.

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U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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