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US to promise Patriot missiles to Ukraine

December 21, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet US leader Joe Biden and address Congress in Washington, the White House said. It's Zelenskyy's first overseas trip since Russia invaded his country in February.

Zelensyy in Bakhmut, Ukraine.
Image: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is traveling to Washington on Wednesday, to meet with US President Joe Biden and address the US Congress.

This will be his first trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The White House confirmed the trip late on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden looks forward to the visit and that the address to Congress will demonstrate "the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine."

A US official said Biden and Zelenskyy first discussed the idea of a visit to Washington during their phone call on December 11, and a formal invitation followed three days later. Zelenskyy accepted the invitation on Friday, and the trip was confirmed on Sunday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who visited Zelenskyy earlier this year in Kyiv, encouraged lawmakers to be available for Wednesday evening's session."They are fighting for democracy for all of us," she said of Ukrainians.

Military aid, Patriot defense system for Ukraine

Zelenskyy's trip includes a visit to the Capitol to meet lawmakers and a meeting with Biden in the White House for an announcement of a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine. This includes the Patriot air and missile defense battery to help defend against Russia's missile attacks.

"President Biden will announce a significant new package of nearly $2 billion of security assistance for Ukraine. It will contain a very important new capability: a Patriot missile battery, which will be a critical asset to defend the Ukrainian people against Russia’s barbaric attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure," the White House statement said.

Russia warned Washington last week against supplying the Patriot system to Ukraine. The US has already supplied Kyiv with HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and NASAMS ground-based air defense systems, among other military aid.

This trip comes soon before  US lawmakers are set to vote on a year-end spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine

Zelenskyy is traveling to the US after a trip to the city of Bakhmut, which he called the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer frontline of the war.

There, he spoke to Ukrainian troops and commended their "courage, resilience and strength."

Both Washington and Kyiv have said they do not expect a resolution to the war in the near future. 

Soldiers in Bakhmut handed Zelenskyy a Ukrainian flag with their signatures on it, video footage released on Ukrinform TV showed. 

"We will turn it over to the Congress and to the US president from the guys," Zelenskyy said in the video.

"We are grateful for the support. But it's not enough," he added.

Kyiv says it needs Western help to strengthen its air defenses as Russian strikes have repeatedly cut electricity and water supplies in Ukrainian winter temperatures.

tg/sms (AP, Reuters, DPA, AFP)