Ukraine's Zelensky arrives at White House; $1.85B in aid announced

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (C) is greeted by President Joe Biden (R) and first lady Jill Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
1 of 2 | President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (C) is greeted by President Joe Biden (R) and first lady Jill Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived at the White House on Wednesday for a meeting with President Joe Biden as the United States announced an additional $1.85 billion in support for Ukraine's defenses against Russia.

The Ukrainian president was greeted with handshakes from the president and first lady Jill Biden, who were flanked by a U.S. Marine. Zelensky and Biden spoke in the Oval Office, where Zelensky presented Biden with the Ukraine hero's medal.


Biden remarked that Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to use winter as a weapon by attacking Ukraine's infrastructure, leaving civilians without access to heat and other crucial resources.

"Hard to believe, 300 days going through this, and Putin has waged a brutal assault on the Ukrainians' right to exist as a nation, and the attack on innocent Ukrainian people for no reason other than to intimidate," Biden said.


Speaking in English, Zelensky said it was "a great honor" to be in the White House, adding that U.S. support allowed Ukraine to defend itself.

"All my appreciations, from my heart, from the heart of all Ukrainians," he told Biden.

Zelensky's surprise visit to the White House came in second trip to Washington, but his first international one since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Wednesday marked the 300th day of the war. Officials said Zelensky's presence at the White House will underscore the U.S. commitment to the European county in its fight against the Kremlin.

"Russia expected that this war would be quick work, that they would be in Kyiv and dominating the country within a matter of days. But here we are 300 days later, and Ukraine stands, Kyiv stands, the Ukrainian people stand," a senior administration official said Tuesday evening in a call with reporters about the trip.

Before Zelensky's meeting with Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced additional support for Ukraine. The United States will provide $1 billion toward expanding Ukraine's air defense and precision-strike capabilities.

The Defense Department will contribute an additional $850 million to the U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine program, Blinken announced.


"Over the past 300 days, the Kremlin has tried and failed to wipe Ukraine off the map. Now, Russia is trying to weaponize winter by freezing and starving families in their homes," Blinken said.

"In response, President Biden will announce today that the United States is providing critical new and additional military capabilities to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia's ongoing brutal and unprovoked assault."

The package of U.S. military aid includes a Patriot missile battery, the most advanced weapons system yet to be delivered to Ukraine amid the war, which the senior administration official said will be "a critical asset" in defending the country's civilian infrastructure.

National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and other weapons systems are to be included in the package along with Stinger missiles and counter-drone equipment, a senior official said ahead of the announcement.

Zelensky and Biden are expected to speak to the media before the Ukrainian president addresses a joint session of Congress. A few hours after landing, Zelensky will return to Ukraine.

Officials said the two leaders during their meeting will discuss in-depth battlefield strategies as well as the military equipment and training that the United States and its allies will continue to provide Ukraine.


Also to be discussed are sanctions and export controls on Russia, as well as Ukraine's economic and energy sector and humanitarian needs.

"Unfortunately, because Russia has shown no interest in being willing to end this brutal war, just as they were unwilling to engage in good-faith diplomatic efforts to avert this conflict in the first place, we know that in the days ahead the conflict will continue, the winter will be hard and we will continue day in, day out to provide critical support to the Ukrainian people," the senior official said.

The trip comes as Russia has been bombarding civilian centers and infrastructure since suffering a serious of humiliating defeats in the summer that saw its forces relinquish once occupied land back to Kyiv.

The attacks on civilian infrastructure have decimated energy capabilities in the country, raising concerns for the public as the temperature continues to drop as Europe enters winter.

The International Rescue Committee, which responds to humanitarian crises, on Tuesday warned that more than 25% of internally displaced people in Ukraine lack access to sufficient heating. Another 61% of Ukrainians reported their homes were in need of repair.

Zelensky is also to address Congress as lawmakers are working to pass an omnibus spending bill that the Biden administration expects will include more than $40 billion in funding for Ukraine.


The United States has previously given Ukraine more than $19 billion in security assistance since Russia invaded the country. The newly announced funding brings the total of support up to about $21.9 billion.

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