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White House Says President Zelensky Set Security Parameters for His Visit to the U.S.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit the White House on Wednesday for his first trip outside of Ukraine since the war began. He will hold a press conference and address Congress.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky set the parameters for the security protocols he would need to fly to the United States this week to visit the White House, a senior Biden administration official said during a press call with reporters Tuesday evening.
It’s Zelensky’s first trip outside of Ukraine since the war began last February. The official said the U.S. consulted closely with Zelensky “on the security parameters of him being able to depart” Ukraine, and he concluded that he was satisfied that the U.S. met those requirements. “What he needed, we agreed with ... and so we are executing accordingly," the official said.
President Biden first discussed the visit to the U.S. in a phone call on December 11, after which the White House extended a formal invitation for December 21st. Zelensky accepted the invitation on Friday, but the visit was finally confirmed on Sunday. Zelensky “indicated he was very keen” that his first visit outside of Ukraine be to the U.S. to thank the U.S. public for the support given to Ukraine, the official said.
It was “something we wanted to do for some time” he said, noting that tomorrow marks the 300th day since the Russian invasion. “Three hundred days later and Ukraine stands, Kyiv stands, the Ukrainian people stand, and Ukraine has in fact been reclaiming territory.”
Zelensky will have an extended discussion with Biden during his visit, meet with key national security team and cabinet members, then address the public at a press conference, before addressing a joint session of Congress in the late afternoon or early evening, before returning to Ukraine after “just a few short hours” in the U.S., the White House said.
Asked by a reporter if the visit is intended to send a message to the new Republican-led Congress about the need to keep aid flowing to Ukraine, the official said “This isn’t about sending a message to a particular political party. This is about sending a message to Putin and sending a message to the world that America will be there for Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Biden, as previously reported by CNN, is expected to announce tomorrow that the U.S. will be sending Ukraine a Patriot missile battery as part of a new nearly $2 billion package in security assistance for Ukraine. The official called the Patriots “a very important new capability” to help Ukraine defend itself against missile attacks that have been targeting its critical infrastructure since October. Ukraine had been asking for the Patriot missiles for months but the U.S. had previously been reluctant to send the weapons, due to their scarcity. The move is also risky, as Russia has vowed that any Patriot missiles given to Ukraine would become “priority targets” for Russia to destroy.
The administration expects to pass “a significant package" of additional funding for Ukraine in 2023. “We anticipate a bi-partisan package of more than $40 billion,” the official said.
The U.S. military will train Ukrainian forces in how to operate the Patriot missiles but will do this in a third-party country to avoid sending U.S. troops into Ukraine. Once Ukrainian forces are fully trained in their use, which the official said would take a while, they will take the missiles back to Ukraine themselves, rather than the U.S. entering Ukraine to deliver them. The White House has been adamant that it will not send troops into Ukraine to avoid the appearance that it is directly involved in the conflict.
Asked if Biden will discuss with Zelensky the possibility of a peace settlement with Russia, the official said Biden “is not going to pressure or push Zelensky to the negotiating table.” Instead he will work “with Congress and with our allies to put Ukraine in the best possible position on the battlefield so that when the time is ripe, they are in the best possible position at the negotiating table.”
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