Monday, March 4, 2024

Biden and Zelensky push back on assertion Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia stalled

Both United States President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have pushed back against the assertion that Kiev's counteroffensive is stalling, providing "examples of successes" on the battlefield.

Biden first reiterated a figure mentioned earlier in the joint news conference by Zelensky that Ukraine has taken back 50% of the territories seized by Russia. He also pointed to Ukraine’s move to push back the Russian navy so it could export grain in the Black Sea.

Zelensky’s talks in Washington come at a critical moment, as the White House warns American aid to Ukraine could imminently dry up and talks over new assistance are stalled in Congress.

Zelensky, speaking Ukrainian, stated the successes on the battlefield were “not an easy success,” but his country has made “serious steps forward.”

“Yes, we had a lot of problems, but nonetheless, we were able to do this. Moreover, Russia was not able to stay (in) any part of our territory, any village, any town,” Zelensky said, according to a translator.

He clarified that this doesn’t necessarily apply to big cities, but assured that they had a clear plan to move forward. He declined to give details of those plans publicly.

Biden also said that it was because of bipartisan support from more than 50 countries that Ukraine was able to accomplish these things.

“We need to ensure Putin continues to fail in Ukraine and Ukraine to succeed and the best way for that… to do that is to pass the supplement,” Biden continued, referring to additional funding that is stalled in Congress.

Biden has long vowed American support for Ukraine will persist “as long as it takes”.

But on Tuesday, Biden appeared to revise that commitment, saying that the US would “continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can”.

It was a shift that reflected the major headwinds in approving new American assistance to Ukraine. After Zelensky’s meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it appeared no clearer that new aid would be forthcoming before the end of the year.

Opening his news conference, Biden stated Russian President Vladimir Putin was “banking on the United States failing to deliver” new aid, and said American divisions on providing new aid was playing into Russia’s hands.

“We must, we must, we must prove him wrong,” Biden added.

He noted the host of a Russian state television program had praised Republicans for blocking the passage of new Ukraine aid last week.

“If you’re being celebrated by Russian propagandists, it might be time to rethink what you’re doing.”

Biden later defined US expectations for Ukraine as the war approaches the end of its second year.

“We want to see Ukraine win the war,” Biden said, adding, “Winning means Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation. And it can afford to defend itself today and deter further aggression. That’s our objective.”

Zelensky gave a thankful message of unity at the joint news conference with Biden.

“We’ve already made significant progress. We’ve shown that our partnership is stronger than any Russian hostility,” Zelensky said, adding that Ukraine has freed 50% of the territories Russia occupied.

He pointed out that Ukrainian soldiers have been “defending freedom” for nearly two years and “thanks to Ukraine’s success in defense, other European nations are safe from the Russian aggression unlike in the past.”

“When freedom is strong in one country, it is strong everywhere,” Zelensky said.

“We stand firm, no matter what Putin tries. He hasn’t won any victory,” the Ukrainian president added.

Earlier, Biden promised another $200 million in emergency military aid for Ukraine. He made the pledge during an Oval Office meeting with Zelensky on Tuesday.

The meeting comes after a bill intended to provide $60 billion in aid for Kiev was blocked in the US Senate last week, as Republicans demanded tougher immigration control on the southern US border in exchange for approving Ukraine assistance.

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