The US has confirmed that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Washington on Wednesday, in what will be his first foreign trip ever since Russia invaded his country around 10 months back. During his dramatic visit that is expected to last only for a few hours, Zelensky will be looking for sustained military and economic assistance from the US.
The visit was organised in secret and it was a mere speculation till Tuesday night. A senior US official said that Biden will announce a new weapons package of nearly two billion dollars for Ukraine. This will include a Patriot missile battery to help Kyiv improve its air defenses against Russian missiles.
Zelensky will visit the Oval Office for extended talks with US President Joe Biden. He will also meet with top national security aides at the White House and participate in a joint news conference with Biden. He is also scheduled to address a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives at Capitol Hill.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that Biden invited Zelensky “to underscore the United States’ enduring commitment to Ukraine.”
“The visit will underscore the United States’ steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance,” she said.
“On my way to the US to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of (Ukraine),” Zelensky tweeted about the visit.
CNN reported that Biden first discussed a possible meeting with Zelensky in Washington during a telephone call with him on December 11, an administration official said. The entire thing was put together in secret in 10 days.
Karine further stated that Biden will not push Zelensky to the negotiating table with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the past 10 months, the West has rallied behind Ukraine and sought to isolate Russia without getting involved in a direct conflict with Moscow.
“The president is not coming with a message that is about pushing or prodding Zelenskiy in any way. This is going to be a message of solidarity and support, coordinating and alignment,” the official said.
The Biden administration has so far provided about $20 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, including artillery ammunition, munitions for NASAMS air defense systems and for high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS).
(With inputs from agencies)
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