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Ukraine President Zelenskyy to meet Biden, address Congress in Washington


WASHINGTON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet with US leader Joe Biden and address Congress in Washington on Wednesday after Vladimir Putin announced he would bolster Russia’s military in Ukraine.
The secretly arranged trip came as the Russian president blamed the West for the “common tragedy” of the war and said Moscow would develop the military’s nuclear capabilities.
It will be Zelenskyy’s first trip outside of Ukraine since Russian forces invaded in February, when they planned to quickly take over Kyiv and much of the country.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Zelenskyy’s visit would “emphasize the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as possible.”
It comes after nearly 10 months of civil war that saw Russian forces thwarted by stubborn Ukrainian troops backed by Western weapons, forced to retreat from captured territory and try to avoid losses. next defeat.
“I am on my way to the US to strengthen (Ukraine)’s resilience and defense,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter, confirming that he would personally address Congress.
Zelenskyy will visit the White House, where Biden will announce a new weapons package worth nearly $2 billion that a senior administration official said includes Patriot anti-aircraft missiles.
Patriot missiles are seen as crucial to helping Kyiv fend off Russian missile and drone attacks on its infrastructure.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the transfer of new weapons would lead to “exacerbation of the conflict” and did not “do well for Ukraine”.
He added that Moscow does not expect Ukraine to change its stance on peace talks – including refusing to negotiate while Putin is in power – during the visit.
Addressing senior military officials in a televised address, Putin said Moscow was not responsible for the invasion and agreed with the assessment that Russia needed a larger army.
“The combat capabilities of our armed forces are constantly increasing,” Putin said, adding that Russia would also “improve the combat readiness of our nuclear triad.” .
“Of course, what is happening is a tragedy – our common tragedy. But it is not the result of our policies. It is the result of the policies of third countries,” he said. said more.
“We don’t have any limits on funding. The country and the government are providing everything the military asks for, everything,” Putin said.
Zelenskyy is also scheduled to speak at a joint session of Congress, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said will be “a very special focus on democracy.”
The visit was quietly planned, starting with a phone call between Biden and Zelenskyy on December 11, followed by a formal invitation a week ago and confirmation of the visit on Sunday.
Details of the visit leaked Tuesday afternoon, with officials stressing to US media that security concerns remained over Zelenskyy’s trip.
Biden and Zelenskyy will discuss weapons and training provided by the United States and its allies, sanctions and other pressure on Russia, as well as the economic and humanitarian aid Ukraine needs, the official said. senior White House said.
“They will discuss every element of this conflict, including the situation on the battlefield and including the question of where the war is going from here,” the official said.
The visit will send Putin “a strong message of unity and determination from the White House, from Washington, from the free world, on behalf of all countries that support Ukraine,” the official said. to add.
But that does not include pressuring Zelenskyy to negotiate with Putin, the official stressed.
Zelenskyy flew to the United States after an adventurous visit to the front line at Bakhmut, where both sides had suffered heavy losses from continuous bombardment over the past two months.
Brutal trench warfare and artillery battles around Bakhmut – once known for its vineyards and salt mines – flattened much of the city and surrounding area.
“In Donbas, you are defending the whole of Ukraine,” Zelensky told the Ukrainian fighters.
“This is not just Bakhmut, this is Bakhmut fortress,” he said, handing out trophies to Ukrainian servicemen.
The soldiers gave Zelenskyy a Ukrainian flag signed with their names and asked him to show it to Biden and Congress.
Zelenskyy said they told him: “We are in a difficult situation. The enemy is increasing in number. Our men are braver, but we need more weapons.”

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