The United States will continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia “as long as it takes,” President Joe Biden said while outlining additional military support.
Speaking at a White House press conference, and standing on a podium alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he paid tribute to “the spine of steel, the love of country and the unwavering determination to choose their own way” of the Ukrainians.
And he said, “Americans are ready to make us stand up to bullies, stand up for freedom. That’s who we are.”
Mr Biden said Ukraine had “defied Russia’s expectations at every turn” and continued: “The American people are with you every step of the way and we will stay with you…as long as it will have to.”
“Together we will keep the flame of freedom burning,” he added.
Zelenskyy thanked the United States and the American people for their support, especially the Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system, saying “every dollar of this investment for the United States will strengthen global security.”
“This is the only way to deprive the terrorist state of its main instrument of terror – the ability to hit our cities, our energy,” Zelenskyy said.
Mr Biden said the Patriot system is ‘a defensive system, it’s not escalation, it’s defensive’
US President and Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said the United States would provide $1.85 billion in additional military aid to Ukraine, which includes a transfer of the Patriot system.
Ukraine’s president told the conference that his country’s defense capabilities will be strengthened in the coming months, but did not elaborate, and said Russia must be held accountable for its actions.
Mr. Zelenskyy, on his first known trip outside his country since the invasion of Russia in February, was asked by a reporter what his message was to the American people. He replied: “My message: I wish you peace.
“To be with us, because we are really fighting for our common victory against this tyranny…and we will win. And I really want to win together. I don’t, sorry…I’m sure.”
Mr Zelenskyy also said the war would end once Ukraine’s sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity were restored, along with “reimbursement of all damages inflicted by Russian aggression”.
Earlier, during a fireside welcome at the White House, Mr. Zelenskyy presented Mr. Biden with a medal that had originally been awarded to a Ukrainian military captain for bravery. The captain said he wanted the US president to get him for his support for Ukraine.
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On receiving the medal, Mr Biden said: “Oh my God, I love you…undeserved but much appreciated.”
The highly sensitive trip comes after 10 months of a brutal war that has claimed tens of thousands of victims on both sides and the devastation of Ukrainian civilians.
Shortly after arriving in the United States, Mr. Zelenskyy posted on his Telegram account of his determination to win the war with Russia, writing: “Next year we must return the Ukrainian flag and freedom to all our country, to all our people”.
The US has so far sent around $50bn (£41bn) in aid to the government in Kyiv as it defends itself against an invasion by Russia that began 10 months ago.
Former UK ambassador to Ukraine Leigh Turner told Sky News that Mr Zelenskyy’s main aim was to tackle country fatigue supporting what could be a “long and bitter war”.
He said: “In the beginning everyone was supporting Ukraine, all Western governments and the British and American people were strongly supporting Ukraine, supplying arms and welcoming refugees into their homes.
“Ten months later, winter is approaching, there are many more crises…and even some US lawmakers, mostly from the Republican Party, have voted against giving further aid to Ukraine.”
President Biden said he was ‘not worried at all’ about holding together an international coalition supporting Ukraine and said he had never seen the NATO alliance or the European Union more united.
“I don’t see any signs of change. We all know what’s at stake here,” he said.