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Biden welcomes Zelenskiy to White House and promises more missiles for Ukraine

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US president Joe Biden has welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the White House as the leaders try to show a united front against Russia’s invasion.

Their summit was Mr Zelenskiy’s first known trip outside his home country since the war began in February.

Mr Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeted Mr Zelenskiy, who wore casual army green attire, as he got out of his vehicle.

He shook hands with Mr Biden before they went inside for their Oval Office meeting, followed by a news conference. In the evening, Mr Zelenskiy will address Congress.

Mr Zelenskiy thanked Mr Biden, US lawmakers and “ordinary people” of America for their support while Mr Biden told him that Ukrainians “inspire the world” before the two leaders began an Oval Office summit.

In brief remarks before reporters, Mr Biden told Mr Zelenskiy that “it’s an honour to be by your side” and he pledged continued financial, military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. He also warned that Russia is “trying to use winter as a weapon” in the war.

Mr Zelenskiy said he had wanted to visit the US at an earlier time but could not. He stressed that the “war is not over” and that his country faces many challenges in battling Russia.

The highly sensitive trip was taking place after 10 months of a brutal war that has seen tens of thousands of casualties on both sides and devastation for Ukrainian civilians.

Just before his arrival, the US announced its largest single delivery of arms to Ukraine, including Patriot surface-to-air missiles, and Congress planned to vote on a spending package that includes about 45 billion dollars in emergency assistance to Ukraine.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the visit “will underscore the United States’ steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her invitation to Mr Zelenskiy to speak to lawmakers, said “the fight for Ukraine is the fight for democracy itself” and that they were looking forward to “hearing your inspiring message of unity, resilience and determination”.

US and Ukrainian officials have made clear they do not envision an imminent resolution to the war and are preparing for fighting to continue for some time. The latest infusion of US money would be the biggest yet.

Mr Biden has repeated that while the US will arm and train Ukraine, American forces will not be directly engaged in the war.

Mr Biden and Mr Zelenskiy first discussed the idea of a visit during a telephone call on December 11, with a formal invitation following three days later, according to a senior US administration official.

Mr Zelenskiy accepted the invitation on Friday and it was confirmed on Sunday, when the White House began coordinating with Ms Pelosi to arrange the congressional address.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be considered a provocative step and that the system and any crews accompanying it would be a legitimate target for Moscow’s military.

It was unclear when the Patriot battery would arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, given that US troops will have to train Ukrainian forces. The training could take several weeks and is expected to be done in Germany.

The visit comes at an important moment, with the White House bracing for greater resistance when Republicans take control of the House in January and give more scrutiny to aid for Ukraine. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California has said his party will not write a “blank cheque” for Ukraine.

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