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Biden and Zelensky present a united front at the White House as the US prepares more aid for Ukraine

Biden and Zelensky present a united front at the White House as the US prepares more aid for Ukraine

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Washington — President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, presenting a united front against Russia as the United States prepares to send billions of dollars more in military aid to bolster Ukrainian forces.

“It is important for the American people and the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s struggle and the need to continue to stand together in 2023,” Mr. Biden said, standing next to Zelensky in the eastern White House Room.

The president said the US would continue to support Ukraine “to the extent necessary” and condemned the increased Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure as the bitter winter cold sets in.

“We need to be aware of what Russia is doing – it is purposefully attacking Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, destroying the systems that provide hat and light to the Ukrainian people during the coldest and darkest part of the year. Russia is using winter as a weapon,” Mr. Biden said.

Asked what message he has for the American people, Zelensky emphasized that “we have the same values.”

“We are truly fighting for our common victory against this tyranny. And this is real life. And we will win. I really want too [to] win together I don’t want to – I’m sure,” said Zelensky, who alternated between speaking in English and Ukrainian.

US President Biden welcomes Ukrainian President Zelensky to the White House in Washington
President Biden and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on December 21, 2022.

KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS


The visit to Washington is the Ukrainian leader’s first known trip outside his country in the 300 days since the Russian invasion began. Mr. Biden rolled out the red carpet for his Ukrainian counterpart, who wore an olive green sweatshirt, cargo pants and boots. The two first held a meeting in the Oval Office, where Mr Biden said the US “stands behind the great people of Ukraine” and called Zelensky a “great leader”.

Zelensky heads to Capitol Hill after leaving the White House, where he will spoke to a joint session of Congress at 7:30 p.m

Planning for the trip was shrouded in secrecy given the extraordinary security concerns that come with a military leader traveling outside his country.

Zelensky said it was a “great honor” to be welcomed to the White House and expressed his appreciation “from my heart, from the hearts of Ukrainians, all Ukrainians” for Mr Biden’s “support and leadership”.

In an Oval Office moment that seemed to catch Mr. Biden off guard, Zelensky presented him with a combat medal that had been given to him by a Ukrainian captain who had fought on the front lines. “He’s very brave and he said, ‘Give it to a very brave president,'” Zelensky said, noting that the captain commands a unit using a weapon system provided by the U.S.

Shortly before Zelensky arrived, the State Department unveiled a new $1.85 billion military aid package for Ukraine, bringing the total military aid sent to Ukraine to $22 billion. First the US sends the Ukrainians a Patriot missile battery, a sophisticated air defense system that can repel Russian missiles and aircraft. The new package also includes hundreds of thousands of mortars and artillery shells, dozens of armored vehicles and specialized kits that greatly improve the effectiveness and accuracy of bombs dropped by fighters.

“We will continue to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, especially air defense,” Mr. Biden said. “And that’s why we’re going to provide Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery and train your forces to use it accurately.”

The Ukrainian president’s speech to Congress comes as U.S. lawmakers work toward passage a massive $1.7 trillion government spending package this includes almost $45 billion in military, humanitarian and economic aid to Ukraine. If approved by Congress, it would be the last tranche of emergency aid given to Ukraine.

Lawmakers have allocated more than $65 billion in total aid, which includes financial and humanitarian aid, to Ukraine since the invasion, although some House Republicans have expressed opposition to continuing direct funding to the country. The new funding would bring U.S. aid to more than $100 billion.


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