Zelensky wins promise of 'significant' new weapons at White House

Biden continues show of support for Ukraine: Zelensky wins promise of ‘significant’ new weapons package during meeting at the White House as US leader vows to ‘ensure the world stands with you’

  • U.S. President Joe Biden is set to announce a major new package for Ukraine
  • Ukrainian President Zelensky is facing a trickier atmosphere in Washington 
  • Maintaining U.S. support for Ukraine is key to helping Kyiv fight Russia

Biden has continued to show support for Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelensky as the war torn country won a promise from the White House of a ‘significant’ new weapons package.

The two presidents met at the White House on Thursday, as Zelensky made a whistle-stop tour around Washington D.C. intended to shore up U.S. support for Ukraine’s war effort.

During the meeting, Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart that his ‘bravery has inspired the world’ and the White House will ‘ensure the world stands with you’.

Today’s meeting marked significant progression for the Ukrainian war effort, with Zelensky telling reporters that his visit was ‘very important,’ amid concern in Kyiv that conservative Republican scepticism on funding further military aid packages for Ukraine mounted.

Joe Biden is set to announce a new $325m military aid package for Ukraine, including further aid defence weapons, cluster munitions, and other weaponry that he will be key to helping Ukraine fend off Russian attacks throughout the winter.

‘When it comes to weapons we will discuss everything with a special emphasis on air,’ Zelensky said in the Oval Office. While the White House has promised ‘significant air defense capability,’ the U.S. has confirmed that it has turned down a request for long-range ATACMS missiles.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska at the South Portico of the White House

President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office

Jill Biden embraces Olena Zelenska while President Joe Biden greets President Volodymyr Zelensky at their arrival at the White House

Maintaining continued support from the U.S. is a priority for Kyiv. Washington is the single largest backer of Ukraine’s war effort. The U.S. has sent some $113bn in security and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan commented that he was confident of ‘strong bipartisan support’ for continued aid to Ukraine.

Zelensky, who had earlier been meeting with Congressmen on Capitol Hill to make the case for further support from the U.S., faces a tricky political landscape in Washington. He urged Congress to ‘stay strong’ in their backing for Kyiv.

Conservative Republicans are adamant that funding for Ukraine should be cut. Zelensky said that he had frank discussions with Congressmen.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, who is a prominent backer of Ukraine in Congress, said that the Ukrainian President had warned him that Kyiv could ‘lose the war’ if aid from the U.S. does not continue.

Zelensky received a cool response from the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy is struggling to deal with an increasingly vocal right-wing among Republican lawmakers, six of whom have signed a joint letter declaring ‘enough is enough’.

The Biden administration is pushing for Congress to authorize another $24bn in aid for Ukraine. 

McCarthy met Zelensky behind closed doors, and said afterwards that he remained non-committal about the $24 billion aid package to Ukraine but said Zelensky answered many of lawmakers’ questions on the status of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks with U.S. President Joe Biden down the colonnade to the Oval Office during a visit to the White House 

Volodymyr Zelensky met House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday in his battle to persuade skeptical Republicans to keep sending aid

The Ukrainian President urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to ‘stay strong’ and support Kyiv after Poland yanked its weapons supply during one of Russia’s most brutal missile campaigns

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (L) join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (2nd R) and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, in a wreath laying ceremony at the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House

Zelensky is requesting more air defense help from the Biden administration 

Zelensky told lawmakers: ‘When this war started, you said to me, Ukraine, stay unified and stay strong. I’m coming back and saying to the United States: stay unified and stay strong.’ 

Before his visit, Zelensky asked to deliver another joint address to Congress, as he did last December, Punchbowl News reported, but Speaker Kevin McCarthy denied the request.

‘Zelensky asked us for a Joint Session and we just didn’t have time,’ McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, pointing out the Ukrainian president had already addressed Congress. Zelensky spoke to a joint session in December when Nancy Pelosi was still speaker.

Congress has already authorized more than $110 billion to Kyiv since Vladimir Putin’s invasion, and some members of the GOP have warned the White House they will oppose Biden’s request to send another $24 billion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is welcomed to the Capitol by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) walk out of the Old Senate Chamber following a meeting with senators

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the Pentagon

Ukraine-Poland Dispute tied to grain bans 

Tensions have risen between Ukraine and Poland, its neighbor and first ally, over grain shipments.

Several European Union nations put a ban on Ukrainian grain earlier this to protect their own farmers. 

Last week, the EU announced plans to suspend the ban. But three countries – Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – said they woudl keep it.

Ukraine protested and filed lawsuits against all three countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the ban in his address to the UN, saying ‘it is alarming to see how some in Europe, some of our friends in Europe, play out solidarity in a political theater – making a thriller from the grain.’

He accused them of aiding Moscow. Poland condemned the remarks and summoned its ambassador from Ukraine. 

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul said Zelensky told lawmakers ‘he’s winning’ the war.

He said Zelensky told them he needs air cover and long-range artillery for his soldiers. 

Zelensky is making his plea for support as Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland, announced it will no longer provide weapons to Kyiv. 

‘We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,’ Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv, sparked by Poland’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports to protect the interests of its farmers, have intensified in recent days. 

Poland was one Ukraine’s earliest and staunchest allies after Russia invaded. It has taken in over a million refugees and been Kyiv’s biggest supplier of weapons.

Poland has delivered hundreds of Soviet-era tanks and armored personnel carriers for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as 14 MiG-29 fighter jets.

Warsaw’s government spokesman Piotr Mueller said Thursday that Poland ‘only carries out previously agreed supplies of ammunition and weapons, including those resulting from the contracts signed with Ukraine.’ 

Asked whether Warsaw would choose not to sign new contracts for delivering arms to Kyiv, Mueller declined to answer. 

In the US, Zelensky’s focus is on House Republicans, who have made clear they oppose more funding for the Ukraine. 

McCarthy’s stop-gap resolution to keep the government running while lawmakers negotiate a full budget deal lacks any funding for Kyiv. 

President Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska place flowers at the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is escorted by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the Capitol

Senator Chris Murphy posted a photo of Zelensky’s private meeting with senators

President Zelensky inside the Old Senate Chamber where he’s meeting with senators

A framed flag signed by front-line Ukrainian fighters in Bakhmut and presented to the U.S. Congress in 2022, sits at one end of the table where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will meet privately with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other leaders

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has questioned U.S. funding for Ukraine

President Zelensky arrived on Capitol Hill surrounded by security

And now 29 GOP lawmakers wrote to the Biden’s budget chief to express their concerns about how much has already been given to the Ukraine – $100 billion – and to complain the Biden administration  supports an ‘open-ended commitment’ to the country.

They argue Americans need more information on the war effort.

‘How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were 6 months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan?’ they write.  

McCarthy has made similar comments.

‘Was Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don’t think so. I have questions for where’s the accountability on the money we’ve already spent? What is this the plan for victory?’ he said to reporters on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell does support funding Ukraine’s war effort although some conservatives in the upper chamber think the U.S. has done enough to help Kyiv.

McConnell, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, escorted Zelensky into his meeting with senators.  

The Biden administration continues to push for more funding. Zelensky will cap off his visit to Washington with a meeting in the Oval Office. 

Zelensky’s visit comes at a ‘critical time, as Russia is reaching out’ to countries like North Korea and Iran, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday. 

Biden can get a ‘battlefield perspective,’ when he meets with Zelensky in the Oval Office, Kirby noted. 

President Zelensky greets Pentagon employees after laying a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial

Russian President Vladimir Putin has upped his assault on Ukraine

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky on Capitol Hill with Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova

While Zelensky was out of the country, Russia upped its aerial campaign, damaging energy facilities and causing power outages in several region.

Moscow targeted Lviv in the west, near the border with Poland, and Kharkiv, close to Ukraine’s eastern front lines, as well as Kyiv, Cherkasy and Rivne. 

Zelensky arrives in Washington after addressing the UN General Assembly as part of the body’s annual meeting.

He also addressed the U.N. Security Council, where he got tough, accusing it of inaction on Russia’s invasion of his country.

‘Most of the world recognizes the truth about this war,’ Zelensky said.

‘We should recognize that the U.N. finds itself in a deadlock on the matters of aggression,’ he noted.

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