Ukraine leader visits U.S. as Washington announces additional aid for his nation
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was expected to visit the United States on Wednesday, during which he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and then address a joint session of Congress, a senior U.S. official said.
Zelensky's trip was so carefully arranged that even though it was reported by multiple U.S. media outlets earlier on Tuesday, it was said to still have the potential of failing to materialize at the last minute due to heightened security concerns — until a senior administration official formally made the announcement at a news conference with reporters.
During what will be his first overseas trip since the conflict between Ukraine and Russia broke out in late February, the Ukrainian leader will have "an extended sit-down" with Biden at the White House, a meeting with key members of the U.S. national security team and Cabinet-level officials, and then the opportunity to meet with reporters at a news conference, according to the official.
Coinciding with the occasion of Zelensky's visit, Biden was expected to approve a new tranche of security assistance for Ukraine worth nearly $2 billion on Wednesday.
Included in that package is a Patriot surface-to-air missile system that U.S. media have speculated for quite some time that the Biden administration is prepared to send to Ukraine.
The official said the U.S. will train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the Patriot battery "in a third country", which "will take some time".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that new weapons deliveries would lead to an "aggravation of the conflict" and do not "bode well for Ukraine".
He added that Moscow does not expect Ukraine to change its stance on peace talks — including refusing to negotiate while Putin is in power — during the visit.
Zelensky will also head to Capitol Hill to deliver a speech at a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to meet his top military officials to assess the results of the special military operation so far and set goals for next year.
A senior U.S. official said on Tuesday that the Russian leadership has conflicting views on whether to launch a winter offensive in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.
Putin has publicly called for his top military brass to present him with "short- and medium-term "plans on how to proceed with the special military operation.
"Certainly, there are some who, I think, would want to pursue offensives in Ukraine. There are others who have real questions about the capacity for Russia to actually do that," the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
On Oct 5, Putin signed laws to formalize the accession of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as federal subjects of Russia.
Putin said on Tuesday that the situation in the four areas was proving "extremely difficult".
The Russian leader made a visit to Belarus on Monday, stoking worries in Western media that Russian forces could open a new attack from the north.
The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Peskov as saying such reports were "groundless" and "stupid".