Biden tells Zelenskyy at the White House: ‘You will never be alone’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy won vows on Wednesday for long-term U.S. support, including a new missile defense system, on his first trip abroad since invading Russia on Wednesday. President Joe Biden promising him: “You will never be left alone”.
Three hundred days after Russian leader Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine in hopes of a quick conquest, Zelensky enjoyed a hero’s welcome on a whirlwind trip to Washington, but he also made it clear that he would not accept any pressure to compromise.
Zelensky – whose media savvy and rugged demeanor helped rally the world to Ukraine’s cause – kept his trademark military fatigues rather than switching to a suit as Biden rolled out the red carpet, lovingly laying down his hand on the warlord’s shoulder as they enter. the White House.
“You will never be alone,” Biden told him at a joint press conference.
“The American people are with you every step of the way and we will be with you – we will be with you – as long as it takes.”
Biden said Americans “understand in our bones that the Ukraine fight is part of something much bigger.”
“Together I have no doubt that we will keep the flame of freedom burning and the light will remain and prevail over the darkness.”
Zelensky will later deliver a speech to Congress, which finalizes a new $45 billion package for Ukraine as the new year approaches, before leaving with barely half a day on the ground.
Zelensky flew to the United States in secret straight after a risky visit to the front line in Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian troops have both come under heavy fire and shelling for the past two months.
Zelensky presented Biden with an award he said was given to him on the ground by a “true hero” – a ground captain of a HIMARS rocket system who was a game-changer on the ground.
“He’s very brave and he said, give it to a very brave president,” Zelensky said in the Oval Office.
Upon Zelensky’s arrival, the United States announced an additional $1.85 billion from funds previously budgeted for Ukraine, including for the first time the Patriot advanced air defense system, capable of shooting down missiles cruise ships and short-range ballistic missiles.
Zelensky expressed appreciation for the “very important step”, saying the Patriot systems will “dramatically strengthen our air defense”.
Ukraine fears a growing missile attack and has faced a slew of drone attacks, many bought by Russia from Iran, as Moscow hammers power plants and other civilian infrastructure as the country shivers in the winter cold.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said further arms deliveries would lead to “an escalation of the conflict” and “do not bode well for Ukraine”.
Addressing senior military officials in a televised address, President Vladimir Cheese fries argued that Moscow was not responsible for the invasion and agreed with an assessment that Russia needed a larger army.
“The combat capabilities of our armed forces are constantly increasing,” Putin said, adding that Russia “will also improve the combat readiness of our nuclear triad.”
“What is happening is, of course, a tragedy – our common tragedy. But it is not the result of our policy. It is the result of the policy of third countries,” he added.
The United States and Ukraine scoff at suggestions that the invasion was caused by anything other than Putin and say he is not serious about a negotiated settlement.
Both Biden and Zelensky have said they support a ‘just peace’ – with the Ukrainian leader remaining firm that he will not make any territorial compromises with Russia, which also seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014 .
“For me, as president, a just peace is not a compromise on the sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity of my country – the reimbursement of all damages inflicted by Russian aggression,” Zelensky said. .
“As a father, I would like to point out — how many parents have lost their sons and daughters on the front lines? So what is ‘just peace’ for them?” he said, dismissing the financial compensation as insufficient.
Lawmakers compared Zelensky’s trip to Winston Churchill’s appearance on Capitol Hill at Christmas in 1941, days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor dragged the United States into World War II.
“It is especially moving for me to be here when another heroic leader addresses Congress in a time of war — and with democracy itself at stake,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Ukraine enjoys broad support in the United States, but several far-right Republicans have criticized the aid or expressed sympathy for Putin.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said ahead of the midterm elections that the new Congress would not give Ukraine a ‘blank cheque’, a comment seen as seeking to appease his party’s right flank .
But Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said he looked forward to seeing Zelensky “inspiring” and said defeating Russia was in the interests of the United States.
“The people of Ukraine are brave and innocent and they deserve our help,” McConnell told the Senate.

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