Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 302

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Zelensky says he is returning from Washington “with good results”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in his first video message since leaving Washington, DC, that he is returning to his country with “good results.”

In a selfie-style message on Telegram, the Ukrainian president said, “I am coming back from Washington. Coming with good results, that will really help.”

He also thanked US President Joe Biden for his “assistance and for international leadership and for his commitment to victory.”

“I thank the US Congress, to both Houses, to all Parties who support Ukraine, to all those who wish us Victory as much as we wish it,” he added.

Zelensky noted that “we are bringing to Ukraine, to Donbas, to Bakhmut and to the South, solutions that our Defence Forces have been waiting for.”

Putin: Patriot deliveries to Ukraine will prolong conflict, won’t alter its outcome

The delivery of a battery of Patriot missile systems to Ukraine will prolong the Ukrainian security crisis, but cannot alter its outcome, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated.

“Our adversaries proceed from the idea that this is supposedly a defensive weapon. Alright, we’ll keep that in mind. And an antidote can always be found,” Putin said, speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Russian State Council on Thursday. The president assured that the Patriot deliveries were “in vain,” and would “just prolong the conflict, that’s all.”

As for the combat characteristics of the Patriot missile system, Putin noted it was “a rather old system that does not work like, say, our S-300.”

Putin also touched on a number of other issues, reiterating that Russia had been “fooled” in the mid-to-late 2010s by trying to resolve the slow-burning Ukrainian crisis via the Minsk Agreements, and staying that the goals of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine included defending the Donbass and pro-Russian Ukrainians in Ukraine proper.

“Our goal isn’t to further whip up the Ukrainian conflict, but on the contrary, to bring this war to an end. We are striving in this direction and will continue to do so,” Putin continued, adding, “All armed conflicts end one way or another with some kind of negotiations on the diplomatic track. Russia never refused negotiations with Ukraine, it was Kiev that prohibited itself from dialog.”

“Nevertheless, sooner or later, of course, parties in a state of conflict will sit down and come to an agreement. The sooner this realization comes to those opposing us, the better,” Putin emphasized.

The crisis is forcing Moscow to spend its reserves of weaponry, but these are incomparably larger than those that Kiev has at its disposal, Putin said, adding, “I won’t give figures here on say, how many shells we spend per day. These are big numbers. But the difference between us and…the Ukrainian military-industrial complex – is that if it has not been completely expended, it is approaching that point. Soon nothing will be left of their base.”

Kiev’s Western patrons are also approaching problems in delivering fresh stocks of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, Putin said.

“I think the resources of the United States and NATO countries are not yet at the state of exhaustion. The issue is that Ukraine is receiving weapons from the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, mostly Soviet-made, and these really are close to exhaustion. Of these deliveries we have knocked out virtually everything,” the president added.

The West can now proceed with the delivery of their own weapons systems to Ukraine, but it is not easy to make the switch to the alternative, new standard, he said.

In the meantime, the Russian military will be preparing, will train new personnel, assure adequate stocks of spare parts and repair capabilities, Putin added.

Russia doing better than many G20 countries: Putin

Russia is showing better economic results than many of the G20 nations despite the mounting sanctions pressure, President Vladimir Putin has stated. He made the remarks on Thursday at a press conference following a meeting of the Russian State Council, a top advisory body.

“As for the economy, despite the collapse, dissaray and catastrophe predicted for us in the economic sphere, nothing of the kind has happened. Moreover, Russia demonstrates much better results than many countries of the G20, and demonstrates it consistently,” Putin said, adding that he referred to macroeconomic indicators.

This was achieved thanks to the effort of government, business and other economic actors, the president stressed.

“The labor market is stable. State finances are stable, there are no concerning moments there as well. All this is not the result of something that fell from the sky. This is the result of the work of the government, regional teams, business, and the overall spirit in society, which demonstrates unity and the desire to work together to achieve the goal,” Putin noted.

US imposes sanctions on 10 Russian naval entities

The US State Department announced that the United States is imposing sanctions on 10 Russian naval entities over Russian operations against Ukrainian ports.

The sanctions come after President Volodymyr Zelensky met with President Joe Biden in Washington and delivered a speech to Congress on Wednesday.

“In the wake of Russian naval operations against Ukrainian ports, including those that are providing much-needed food and grain to the world, the United States today is imposing sanctions on Russian naval entities,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Since October, Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with large missile and drone strikes.

G7 nations “prepared to do more as needed” on Ukraine economic assistance

The Group of Seven nations “are prepared to do more as needed on budget and economic support” for Ukraine in the year ahead, according to a joint statement from the group’s finance ministers Thursday.

For 2023, the group has mobilized “up to $32 billion US dollars of budget and economic support for Ukraine and continue to make further progress,” said the statement published by the German government.

“We also strongly encourage other donors to step up their support,” the finance ministers added.

In 2022, the G7 mobilized $32.7 billion US dollars of budget support to the Ukrainian government, some $18 billion dollars of which came from the European Union, according to the G7.

“We have a moral imperative to help Ukraine resist Russia’s unprovoked assault,” the statement said.

The G7, or Group of Seven, is made up of allied leaders from some of the world’s largest economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US.

Wagner Group received arms delivery from North Korea: US

The Russian Wagner Group took delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine, a senior US administration official said.

“We can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner, which paid for the equipment. Last month, North Korea delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by Wagner,” the official stated, speaking to the Reuters news agency anonymously.

According to the US, the amount of material delivered by North Korea will not change battlefield dynamics in Ukraine, “but we are concerned that North Korea is planning to deliver more military equipment to Wagner,” the official noted.

The official added that Russian President Vladimir Putin has increasingly turned to the Wagner Group, owned by his ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, for help in Ukraine.

US extends export restrictions for two Russian airlines

The US Department of Commerce says it is extending a Russian export restriction by six months on two Russian airlines that continued to fly after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The export denial extensions are for Pobeda Airlines and S7 Airlines, also known as Siberian Airlines.

The department previously added aeroplanes the two airlines operate to a list of aircraft believed to violate US export controls as part of the Biden administration’s sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The department has imposed severe restrictions on Russian airlines, warning companies worldwide that any refuelling, maintenance, repair, or spare parts or services violate US export controls and subject companies to severe US enforcement actions.

Ukrainian officials express optimism about swift training on Patriot missile defense system

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he held a phone call with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington, DC, and the announcement that the US will provide the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine.

Reznikov tweeted that “PATRIOTic soldiers will master these systems quickly,” capitalizing part of the word in reference to the defense system.

Reznikov said he was “grateful for another package of security assistance, especially for the new capabilities to defend out skies from Russia’s brutal attacks.”

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $1.85 billion in security assistance for Ukraine.

Additionally, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat stated he thinks the training of Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriot missile defense system “will be accelerated.”

He added that the training is taken “very seriously” by the Americans and that the training is “done strictly according to the rules.”

Ihnat noted on Ukrainian television that he hoped the one unit “should be just the beginning” and that the Patriot can help protect “important strategic objects” such as infrastructure and headquarters locations.

Talks resume with Russia on potential protection zone for Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog held another round of necessary discussions with Russian officials on the potential creation of a protection zone surrounding Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

“It’s key that the zone focuses solely on preventing a nuclear accident. I am continuing my efforts towards this goal with a sense of utmost urgency,” said International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

He posted an image on social media of him shaking hands with the CEO of Russian nuclear power company Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev.

Biden administration says Zelensky “made a very compelling case”

The White House believes President Volodymyr Zelensky made a “very compelling” case to the American public and to lawmakers about the need for sustained US aid to Ukraine, a senior White House official said.

As the White House prepares for Republicans — some of whom have cast doubt on the future of aid to Ukraine — to take over the House, the official said the White House believes Zelensky’s speech helped make the case.

“We think he made a compelling case to lawmakers and to the American people about the sacrifices that Ukraine has been and continues to make,” a senior White House official continued, adding, “We believe he made a very compelling case for the reason why support has been so critical in the past and how he believes that support.”

While the speech may help the White House in Ukraine funding fights to come, the official stated Zelensky didn’t seek help from the White House for his remarks.

“This was all him,” the official stated.

Zelensky, of course, went further than the White House in his appeals for more aid — making clear in a joking-not-joking tone at both the White House and to Congress that current aid levels are still not enough.

That was no surprise to the White House, which expected Zelensky was “going to ask for more.” The surprise would have been if he had not.

Just as he did in response to a question by CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Biden has made clear to officials following his meeting with Zelensky how beneficial it was for him to meet with the Ukrainian leader in person.

The senior official noted Biden “really enjoyed his time with Zelensky” and found him to be “energetic” and dedicated.

Iran condemns Ukraine president’s anti-Tehran accusations, rejects drone claim

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman has condemned the Ukrainian president’s repeated accusations and “rude remarks” against the Islamic Republic of Iran at the US Congress, rejecting claims that Tehran has provided Russia with drones for use in Ukraine war.

Nasser Kanaani said Iran has repeatedly responded to baseless accusations regarding drones leveled by Ukrainian officials against the Islamic Republic.

He once again stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not supplied any military hardware to any side for use in the Ukraine war.

Kremlin says neither Biden nor Zelensky showed “potential willingness to listen to Russia’s concerns” during US visit

Neither US President Joe Biden nor his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky showed “a potential willingness to listen to Russia’s concerns” during Zelensky’s historic visit to the United States on Wednesday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“So far, we can state with regret the fact that neither Biden nor Zelensky has spoken any words that can be perceived as a potential willingness to listen to Russia’s concerns,” Peskov said Thursday.

At no point was Zelensky issued with a warning “against continuing the barbaric shelling of residential buildings in the settlements of Donbas,” he continued.

Peskov added that “there were no real calls for peace.” But during his address to the US Congress on Wednesday, Zelensky did stress that “we need peace,” reiterating the 10-point plan for peace devised by Ukraine.

He also called on US lawmakers to “strengthen sanctions” against Russia to make the country “feel how ruinous its aggression truly is.”

Peskov told journalists, however, that Wednesday’s meeting showed the US is continuing to wage a proxy war of “indirect fighting” against Russia down “to the last Ukrainian.”

“The collective West is set for a long confrontation with Russia”: Russian foreign ministry

The West supplying Ukraine with military support and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington further demonstrates that “the collective West is set for a long confrontation with Russia,” said a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry.

Maria Zakharova went on to talk about the “monstrous crimes” of the “regime in Kyiv,” adding that no matter how much the West helps arm the Ukrainian government, “they will achieve nothing.”

“As the leadership of our country has stated, the tasks set within the framework of the special military operation will be fulfilled, taking into account the situation on the ground and the actual realities,” Zakharova continued, referring to Russia’s war in Ukraine, which it calls a special operation.

Her comments came after Zelensky delivered a historic speech from the US Capitol, expressing gratitude for American support in fighting Russian aggression since the war began — and asking for more.

Kremlin says US supplying Patriot systems to Ukraine will prolong people’s “suffering”

The US supplying Ukraine with Patriot missile systems will prolong the Ukrainian people’s “suffering,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

“We see that, in fact, the United States and other countries are following the path of constantly expanding the range and raising the technical level of the weapons that they supply to Ukraine,” Peskov stated during a conference call.

“This does not contribute to a speedy settlement of the situation, on the contrary,” he added.

Peskov went on to say this will not prevent Russia from achieving its goals in Ukraine.

“This leads to the fact that, unfortunately, the suffering of the Ukrainian people will continue longer than it could have,” he added.

On Tuesday, the US announced a new aid package to Ukraine, which included the “first-ever transfer to Ukraine of the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided air defense systems.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted Wednesday that the Patriot air defense missile systems would be a “very important step” to creating secure airspace.

At least 10,300 new graves found in Mariupol

At least 10,300 new graves have emerged in and around Mariupol, most in the Staryi Krym cemetery, according to the estimates made by the Associated Press.

The death toll might run three times higher than an early estimate of at least 25,000 as often more than one set of human remains per grave have been found.

The former Ukrainian city has also hollowed out, with Russian plans to demolish well over 50,000 homes, the AP calculated.

AP analysed satellite imagery from early March through December, noting sections where the earth had been disturbed. It measured each grid section where the cemetery had been expanded and calculated the total space occupied by new graves to be more than 51,500 square metres.

Weapon supplies can lead to ‘an aggravation of the conflict’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the expansion of Western weapon supplies to Ukraine has led to “an aggravation of the conflict and, in fact, does not bode well for Ukraine”.

The comments were an official Russian reaction to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington and the announcement of new US military aid to Ukraine.

President Joe Biden noted the US and Ukraine would continue to project a “united defence” as Russia wages a “brutal assault on Ukraine’s right to exist as a nation”.

Ukraine is fighting for ‘the right to exist’: First Lady

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska said what Ukraine is fighting in the nearly 10-month-old war goes beyond borders or frontiers but has to do with the nation’s very right to exist.

“You were the first to understand: what Ukraine is fighting for has no borders. Because this is the right to exist,” Zelenska stated late during an online meeting with her counterparts from various countries, according to a statement from the Ukrainian presidency.

During the online meeting attended by the first ladies of France, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Belgium, Serbia, Bermuda and Estonia, Zelenska thanked her fellow first ladies for their show of support and help for Ukraine in the early stages of the war with Russia.

“I think all this became possible because we have common values. And the biggest of them is human life and its salvation. Freedom and its protection,” Zelenska added.

Zelensky’s ‘Hollywood-style’ Washington visit a ‘proxy war’ promotion: Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, has accused Washington of waging a “proxy war” against Moscow, saying that all the statements and declarations made during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit only further prove that the Biden administration is not interested in a peaceful settlement.

“The Hollywood-style trip to Washington by the head of the Kiev regime has confirmed that the administration’s conciliatory statements about the lack of intention to start a confrontation with Russia are just empty words,” Antonov said, according to a transcript of his response to a journalist published by the Russian Embassy in Washington on Wednesday night.

Washington is throwing all its colossal resources, weapons, and intelligence capabilities at Kiev in pursuit of the “manic idea of defeating the Russians on the battlefield,” Antonov said.

The ambassador specifically noted the US pledge to supply Kiev with Patriot air defense missiles, warning that such weapons and their crews would be legitimate targets for the Russian military. He also slammed the growing speculation about deliveries of ATACMS missiles and long-range attack drones.

“What was essentially announced to applause and sarcastic smirks, was the need to continue the ‘proxy war’ against our country. Until a complete victory over us,” he added.

Moscow has repeatedly tried to “appeal to common sense at all levels,” the diplomat said, stressing that shipments of increasingly modern and long-range weapons and other provocative actions by the US and its allies are leading to an escalation, with consequences “impossible to even imagine.”

Zelensky urges US Congress to strengthen sanctions against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to Capitol Hill with a strong message: “Ukraine is alive and kicking.”

Zelensky addressed members of Congress after presenting a united front with US President Joe Biden, who assured continued support for Ukraine.

“Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking,” the Ukrainian president said Wednesday.

He also thanked Americans and “all those who value freedom and justice,” for their efforts in helping Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president urged members of the US Congress to strengthen sanctions against Russia and “let the terrorists be held responsible for aggression.”

In his address, Zelensky noted that US President Joe Biden supported his 10-point peace plan, but added that each member of Congress can assist in the implementation.

“We need peace. Yes. Ukraine has already offered proposals, which I just discussed with President Biden, our peace formula — 10 points which should and must be implemented for our joint security… and the summit which can be held. I am glad to share that President Biden supported our peace initiative today. Each of you, ladies and gentlemen, can assist in the implementation to ensure that Americans leadership remains solid, bicameral. and bipartisan,” Zelensky said.

“You can strengthen sanctions to make Russia feel how ruinous its aggression truly is. It is in your power, really, to help us bring to justice everyone who started this unprovoked and criminal war. Let’s do it. Let the terrorist be held responsible for aggression, and compensate all losses done by this war,” he added.

More than 300 days into the war, soldiers in Ukraine are defending their country, but they need more weapons to win on the battlefield, Zelensky told Congress.

“Here, the front line, the tyranny — which has no lack of cruelty against the lives of free people — and your support is crucial not just to stand in such fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield,” he continued, adding, “We have artillery, yes, thank you. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.”

The president underscored that Ukraine is fighting for its “independence and freedom” but called for the United States’ continued support to achieve those goals.

“Your money is not charity. It is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelensky underlined.

Ukraine’s president tried to make the case that although aid benefits Ukraine — it is also in the interest of the United States and other Western allies.

“Iranian deadly drones sent to Russia in hundreds and hundreds became a threat to our critical infrastructure. That is how one terrorist has found the other. It is just a matter of time when they will strike against your other allies if we do not stop them now. We must do it,” he said.

“Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender,” Zelensky added.

Zelensky gave a message of hope for the Ukrainian people during his address to Congress, noting the Russians “use everything” against cities such as Bakhmut but Ukraine “holds its lines and will never surrender.”

The Russians “have been taking (the city of 70,000 people day and night, but Bakhmut stands,” Zelensky said to roaring applause.

“Last year, 70,000 people lived there in Bakhmut… Now only a few civilians stay. Every inch of that land is soaked in blood… Donbas changed hands several time in fierce combat, and even hand-fighting. But the Ukrainian Donbas stands,” he stated, as members gave him a standing ovation after.

“Russians use everything, everything they have against Bakhmut and other of our beautiful cities, the occupiers have a significant advantage in artillery. They have an advantage in ammunition. They have much more missiles and planes than we ever had. It’s true. But our defense forces stand,” he added.

White House says US “obviously would support a diplomatic path forward” between Ukraine and Russia

White House spokesman John Kirby reiterated Wednesday that while the US is hopeful for “a just peace,” in Ukraine, President Joe Biden is deferring to his Ukrainian counterpart when it comes to negotiations.

Biden “obviously wants to seek a just peace here in accordance with what the Ukrainian President [Volodymyr] Zelensky desires to be the outcome there,” Kirby told CNN Wednesday.

“He gets to determine if and when he negotiates, and he gets to determine what is or what isn’t negotiable, if you will, and so we obviously would support a diplomatic path forward here, we want to make sure that we’re doing it in lockstep with the Ukrainians, and in keeping with what they want to see done as a result of this just peace, but we’re not going to dictate the terms to them and we’re not going to push them to the table,” he added.

Instead, Kirby, noted, Biden focused on the United States’ continued commitment to provide security assistance to Ukraine, both in public and behind closed doors.

But he declined to weigh in on speculation about a peace summit, saying the administration “want to study that a little bit more.”

Biden says his meeting sends a critical message to Putin “that Zelensky and I are united”

US President Joe Biden reiterated his belief Wednesday that there is “no substitute” for face-to-face interaction as he welcomed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, offering his own reflections on the Ukrainian leader and the important message of their first in-person meeting since Russia’s war began.

“It’s all about looking someone in the eye. And I mean it sincerely. I don’t think there’s any, any, any substitute for sitting down face to face with a friend or foe and looking them in the eye. And that’s exactly what’s happened in this moment,” Biden said during a joint news conference with Zelensky.

Biden suggested that Wednesday’s meeting sent a critical message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he said has “failed.”

“It was very important for him (Putin) and everyone else to see that President Zelensky and I are united, two countries together, to make sure he cannot succeed,” Biden said.

Zelensky, Biden stated, “in his very soul is who he says he is. It’s clear who he is. He’s willing to give his life for his country — and all the folks who came with him today. And so, I think it’s important for him to know we are going to do everything in our power, everything our power to see that he succeeds.”

Biden added that he and Zelensky did not discuss “at all” the potentially escalatory effects of sending new Patriot missile systems to Ukraine.

“It’s not escalatory, it’s defensive… We’d love to not have them use it – just stop the attacks,” he continued.

Biden said that he and Zelensky “share the exact same vision” for peace in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

“I think we have, we share the exact same vision, and that a free, independent, prosperous and secure Ukraine is the vision — we both want this war to end,” Biden told reporters Wednesday.

“We both want it to end, and as I’ve said, it could end today if Putin had any dignity at all and did the right thing and just said, ‘Pull out.’ But that’s not gonna happen — not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen now. So, what comes next?” he added.

Looking forward, Biden stated, the United States and its allies will focus on continuing “to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield.”

“It can succeed in the battlefield with our help, and the help of our European allies and others, so that if and when President Zelensky is ready to talk to the Russians, he will be able to succeed as well, because he will have won on the battlefield,” Biden continued.

He emphasized the toll Russia’s invasion is taking on Russia.

“You saw just… I think it was two days ago, Putin, saying that this is much tougher than he thought,” Biden stated, adding, “He thought he could break NATO, he thought he could break the West, he thought he could break the alliance, he thought he could be welcomed by the Ukrainian people that were Russian speaking — he was wrong, wrong, and wrong.”

Biden told reporters he’s not concerned about maintaining unity in NATO’s support for Ukraine, telling reporters during a joint news conference with Zelensky that he’s never seen the alliance more united.

“I’m not at all worried about holding the alliance together, NATO and the European Union, as well as other nations — I’ve never seen NATO and the EU more united about anything at all, and I see no sign of there being any change,” Biden told reporters in the White House East Room.

“We all know what’s at stake here, our European partners even more so. This is about — we’ve never seen major invasion of a European country since World War II, and they see no signs that Putin is going to do anything to change that unless we resist, and we help the Ukrainians resist. We all know what’s at stake. The very idea of sovereignty, the UN Charter,” he added.

In his invasion of Ukraine, the president said, Putin predicted he’d be able to weaken NATO, but “instead, he strengthened NATO,” pointing to decisions from Sweden and Finland to join the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“And as we reach out to our NATO allies, our Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, we get continued support, not only there, but also from around the world, from Japan and many other countries as well — so I feel very good about the solidarity of support for Ukraine,” Biden added.

Zelensky says Patriot missile system is an important step for a creating secure airspace

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday the Patriot air defense missile systems that the United States will ship to Ukraine would be a “very important step” to create secure airspace.

“This is a very important step to create secure airspace for Ukraine and it will be the only way we would be able to deprive the terrorist country to strike our energy sector, our people and our infrastructure,” Zelensky stated during a joint news conference with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

Zelensky said the main focus of today’s talks was “to strengthen Ukraine” and that he’ll have “good news returning home” because of the US package of assistance to Ukraine.

The “strongest element of this package is the Patriots,” Zelensky added.

“Russia needs to be held accountable against us, our people, against Europe and the free world,” he continued.

Zelensky said he did not have a message to send to Russian President Vladimir Putin stating, “what kind of message I can send him after he actually destroyed our life? Is destroying our life.”

“As to president Putin, in 2019, we had a Normandy meeting in 2019, I became the president of Ukraine and at that time we were sending maximum messages to President Putin telling him there shouldn’t be a full scale invasion to stop aggression, to renew our territorial integrity, to find a diplomatic solution. God forbid we should not have a full scale war. At that time he said, ‘it won’t happen.’ He was lying. So what kind of message I can send him after he actually destroyed our life? Is destroying our life,” Zelensky noted.

He added, “I believe there is something mortal about his inadequate approach to the world. Why we need to send him a message? He needs to be interested in getting attention from the world because he’s not a subject of civilized people. He should be interested in trying to save something of his culture and history of his country. So that’s his problem now.”

Zelensky emphasized the importance of air defense support in his joint news conference with Biden at the White House.

Zelensky said the main issue the two leaders discussed in their bilateral meeting earlier Wednesday was ways to strengthening Ukraine and the country’s air defense.

“Next year, our movement forward to fight for our freedom and independence. I have good news returning home. President Biden announced a new package of defense support, about 2 billion US dollars, and the strongest element of this package is the Patriots battery system — something that will strengthen our air defense significantly,” Zelensky added.

The Ukrainian leader stated that securing Ukrainian airspace is critical in protecting the country’s energy sector and infrastructure.

“This is a very important step to create secure air space for Ukraine and that’s the only way we would be able to deprive the terrorist country and their terror attack to strike our energy sector, our people and our infrastructure. We had a very good negotiation and talks about our strategic steps, which we discussed with President Biden and what we expect next year and for what we are preparing. This is very important for all Ukrainians,” he continued.

Zelensky also noted that he is hopeful that the US Congress will approve the $45 billion aid package.

“And I am hopeful and once again, thank you, Mr. President, for 45 billion. Because this is a big assistance and I hope that the Congress will approve this financial assistance for our country,” he stated.

Biden announces additional aid for Ukraine, including Patriot missile defense system

US President Joe Biden officially announced the United States will send an additional $1.8 billion package of assistance to Ukraine, which will include the Patriot missile defense system.

“Its going to take some time to complete the necessary training” to operate the system, but said the Patriot missiles will be a “critical asset” to Ukraine’s defense, Biden said Wednesday alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Biden stated the United States in committed to ensuring Ukraine can “defend their country against Russia’s aggressions as long as it takes.”

The president thanked members of Congress for bipartisan support for Ukraine so far — including the newest, additional $45 billion package.

Biden added that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be sending more than $374 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine on Wednesday.

“Today, USAID is committing more than $374 million in urgently needed humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.This provides food and cash assistance for more than 1.5 million Ukrainian people, as well as access to health care, safe drinking water, and help stay warm in the winter for more than 2.5 million Ukrainians,” the US president continued.

Expert predicts Kyiv will at best have 10 hours of electricity a day in early January

Even in the best scenario, Kyiv is unlikely to have more than 10 hours of power a day in early January, an expert on Ukraine’s electricity crisis stated.

The last wave of Russian drone attacks “was focused specifically on Kyiv’s electrical grid and led to significant damage to the whole system,” Oleksandr Kharchenko, director of Energy Industry Research Center, said on Ukrainian television.

“Given the nature of the damage, I think that the people of Kyiv city should prepare for the fact that for the next two-three weeks, the availability of electricity for four-six hours in the house [per day] would be good news,” Kharchenko noted.

“Within a week and a half at the most, rather, maybe in a week, we will return to scheduled outages, in Kyiv city and the region,” Kharchenko added.

Even so, he stated, “at best, we will have electricity 10 hours a day, and 14 hours with no electricity” early in the new year.

While the good news was that “a large amount of equipment is coming,” including mobile generation, the constant disturbance to electricity supplies has damaged small substations, he continued.

“Repair crews cannot be everywhere at the same time. When deciding whether to repair something providing 30 houses versus a substation providing three houses, the choice is often made in favor of the one where more people can be connected. So there are isolated situations where people really suffer,” Kharchenko explained, adding that engineers were learning how to mitigate the effects of Russian missile and drone strikes.

It is likely that some Ukrainians “will be forced to celebrate the New Year in extremely difficult conditions,” he said, recommending that people link up with friends who have generators.

“I think it will be more fun to be together,” he concluded.

US secretary of state: Patriot air defense system included in $1.85 billion security assistance for Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $1.85 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including the first transfer of the Patriot missile defense system.

“Pursuant to a delegation of authority from the President, today I am authorizing our twenty-eighth drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine since August 2021. This $1 billion drawdown will provide Ukraine with expanded air defense and precision-strike capabilities, as well as additional munitions and critical equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself on the battlefield,” Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken added that the Pentagon will also announce $850 million of new security assistance for Ukraine today. His statement followed a similar statement from the White House, all coming the same day as President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington.

The top US diplomat stated that this new support comes as the Kremlin “has tried and failed to wipe Ukraine off the map” and is now seeking to “weaponize winter” with strikes on infrastructure.

The Patriot system is an advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles.

“Today’s assistance for the first time includes the Patriot Air Defense System, capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided air defense systems,” Blinken continued.

Blinken reiterated that the US will continue “to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, so that Kyiv can continue to defend itself and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table when the time comes.”

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