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Biden tells Zelensky US to stand with Ukraine 'as long as it takes'

President Biden on Wednesday pledged to stand with Ukraine for “as long as it takes” during a press conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, vowing to help Kyiv win on the battlefield before any peace talks could take place with Moscow.

Biden’s remarks, which came during an unprecedented visit to Washington by Zelensky, underscored a view that U.S. assistance for Ukraine — military, economic and humanitarian — must continue for an undetermined amount of time into the future.

Biden also suggested that an end to the war would mean a win by Ukraine on the battlefield, which would also strengthen future potential talks between Zelensky and the Kremlin.

“We’re going to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield — if and when President Zelensky is ready to talk to the Russians, he will be able to succeed as well because he will have won on the battlefield,” Biden said.

Zelensky echoed the president’s remarks that a “just peace” for Ukraine is about ensuring all of the country’s territory was liberated — and secure — from Russia.  

“For me, as a president, just peace is no compromises as to the sovereignty, freedom, territorial integrity of my country, payback for all the damages inflicted by Russian aggression,” Zelensky said.

The historic wartime press conference at the White House came amid the Biden administration’s latest bulk of assistance to Ukraine during its war with Russia, most notably in the form of an additional $2 billion in security and humanitarian aid that includes a Patriot missile battery, an advanced aerial defense system to help Ukraine against Russia’s targeted attacks on the country’s energy and electricity infrastructure.

“Russia is using winter as a weapon,” Biden said. “Freezing people, starving people, cutting them off from one another. It’s the latest example of the outrageous atrocities the Russians are committing against innocent Ukrainian civilians, children and their families.”

Biden also praised Ukraine’s military successes, saying that, “Ukraine has won the battle of Kyiv, won the battle Kherson, won the battle of Kharkiv, defied Russia’s expectation at every single turn” and praised Zelensky for being open to “pursuing peace, a just peace.”

But the president added, “We know that Putin has no intention of stopping this cruel war.”

Zelensky and his top officials have been warning in recent days that Russia is preparing to renew its invasion on Ukraine with a massive ground offensive with an estimated 200,000 troops. 

Zelensky said that the U.S. assistance will help strengthen Ukrainian defense capabilities but that he would not “discuss it in details now, I believe you understand why,” a remark raising the possibility of a Ukrainian counter-offensive, as forces have stalled out in routing Russian forces that have been pushed back by tens of thousands of square miles since September. 

The more than $2 billion package – that includes nearly $400 million in humanitarian support – comes as Congress is working to pass a larger $45 billion aid package for Ukraine as part of a government funding bill by the end of this week.

Zelensky spoke to the historic nature of his visit to Washington, his first trip outside of Ukraine since Russia launched a full scale invasion in February, and said the main mission of his trip was to “strengthen Ukraine.”

“The main issue during today’s talks is to strengthen Ukraine. Next year, our movement forward [is] to fight for our freedom and independence. I have good news returning home. President Biden announced a new package of defense support, about $2 billion U.S. dollars” he said, adding that Patriot Missile Battery systems is the most important part of the package.

Zelensky, in a moment of levity during the press conference, said that after the Patriot batteries become operational – which is not expected to happen for at least a few weeks – he would signal to Biden “we would like to get more patriots.”

“We are in war, I’m really sorry,” he said amid laughter among those gathered in the East Room of the White House.  

The Ukrainian president, who is also addressing a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, spoke to concerns that some Republicans have expressed opposition to continued U.S. assistance to Kyiv, even as the majority of Democratic and Republican lawmakers have voiced commitment to supporting Ukraine. 

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who is expected to be the next Speaker of the House if he can overcome opposition by some in his own party, has promised no “blank check” for Ukraine, in responding to calls for more oversight, which other Republicans have echoed.

“Regardless of changes in the Congress, I believe that there will be bipartisan and bicameral support,” Zelensky said, in reference to a Republican take over of the lower chamber, which will have to approve future Ukraine aid.

The Ukrainian president said that he discussed with Biden about Kyiv’s “strategic steps… what we expect next year and what we are preparing.”

Biden was asked by a Ukrainian reporter why the United States can’t provide Ukraine with all capabilities it needs.

“I agree,” Zelensky said, laughing.

Biden reiterated that the U.S. provided “an enormous amount” of assistance to Ukraine before the Russian invasion, has provided over $20 billion in security assistance so far, and will provide the additional $1.85 billion.

“We’re going to give Ukraine what it needs to be able to defend itself, to be able to succeed,” he said.

Updated 6:23 p.m.

Source: The Hill

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