Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to visit Washington on Wednesday, on his first foreign trip since the Russian invasion of his country began, the White House confirmed.
US President Joe Biden “looks forward to welcoming” President Zelensky to the White House, after which Zelensky will address a joint session of Congress, “demonstrating strong bipartisan support for Ukraine,” the House said White in a note.
Zelensky also confirmed the trip with a tweet published at the same time as the White House statement.
“I am going to the United States to strengthen the resilience and defense capabilities of [Ukraine]Zelensky wrote, adding that his discussions with Biden will include a focus on bilateral cooperation.
“I will also give a speech to the Congress and a series of bilateral meetings,” added the Ukrainian leader.
The White House said that, during the visit, Biden “will announce a significant new security assistance package to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression.”
During Zelensky’s visit, Biden was expected to announce “a significant new package of nearly $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine,” a senior administration official said in remarks released by the White House early Wednesday. .
The package will contain a battery of Patriot missiles, the official said, calling the system “a very important new capability … that will be a key asset in defending the people of Ukraine against Russia’s barbaric attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.”
The official said the US would train Ukrainian forces on how to operate the system “in a third country”.
The Patriot system would reshuffle some of the cards of Ukraine’s defensive position. The system can defend against aircraft, cruise missiles, drones or missiles, even those launched from great distances.
Last week Russia warned the United States not to supply the Patriot system to Ukraine. Like other heavy weapons, they would become “legitimate priority targets” for Russian forces, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
Washington has already supplied Kiev with HIMARS missile artillery and NASAMS ground-based air defense systems, among other military aid.
Zelensky has not left Ukraine since February 24, when Russian troops began invading the country. Instead, he attended a series of summits via video link or conducted phone calls with world leaders.
Addressing Ukrainians in his daily video remarks on Tuesday, Zelensky stressed that the current week was extremely important for Ukraine “to get through this winter and next year” and “to get the necessary support”.
Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress also agreed on a $1.7 trillion spending bill on Tuesday, including $44.9 billion in aid for Ukraine. The US Senate and House of Representatives have yet to vote on the bill.
Outgoing US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged House members to attend Wednesday’s session in person in a letter on Tuesday.
“Please be present for a very special focus on democracy on Wednesday evening,” he wrote, giving no further details.