US President, Joe Biden has welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House, in the wartime leader’s first visit outside Ukranian territory since the beginning of Russia’s invasion 300 days ago.
During the visit, the US Military confirmed that it will transfer the advanced Patriot air defence system to Ukraine for the first time as part of a $1.85bn military aid package.
Sitting alongside Zelenskyy in the Oval Office on Wednesday, December 22, Biden pledged to support Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion and pursue a “just peace”.
“We’re going to continue to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, particularly air defence, and that’s why we’re going to be providing Ukraine with Patriot missile battery,” Biden said.
Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to the US government and public. “Thank you first of all,” he told the US president. “It’s a great honour to be here.”
The White House had said earlier that Zelenskyy’s visit will highlight Washington’s commitment to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance”.
Zelenskyy traveled out of Ukraine to Poland using train then was transported from Poland to the US on a US military plane.
He was dressed in his usual military wear as he was greeted by the US president and First Lady Jill Biden at the South Lawn of the White House.
Zelenskyy said in a post on his official Instagram account after he landed that he is in Washington, DC to “thank the American people, the President and the Congress for their much-needed support”. He added that the visit would “strengthen resilience and defence capabilities” of Ukraine.
The US Congress has approved tens of billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in February.
Wednesday’s aid from the US to Ukraine is one of the largest so far. It brings the total of American assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration to $21.9bn.
“Today’s assistance for the first time includes the Patriot Air Defense System, capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided air defense systems,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The Pentagon said the package also includes ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), precision-guided artillery rounds and high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs) amongst other equipment.