- U.S. announces new $1.85 bln military aid package
- U.S. Patriot air defence battery part of new assistance
- Kremlin-Patriots won’t stop it from achieving its goals
- Putin backs increasing size of Russian military by 30%
By Steve Holland and Pavel Polityuk
WASHINGTON/KYIV, Dec 22 (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday that supplies of U.S. Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, announced during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to Washington, would not help settle the conflict or prevent Russia from achieving its goals.
In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there had been no signs of readiness for peace talks during Zelenskiy’s visit, proving that the United States was fighting a proxy war with Russia “to the last Ukrainian”.
Zelenskiy told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that aid to his country was an investment in democracy as he invoked battles against the Nazis in World War Two to press for more assistance in the war against Russia.
Zelenskiy’s comments came as Republicans – some of whom have voiced increasing scepticism about sending so much aid to Ukraine – are set to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats on Jan. 3.
The United States announced another $1.85 billion in military aid for Ukraine, including the Patriot air defence system to help it ward off barrages of Russian missiles.
Zelenskiy said the Patriot system was an important step in creating an air shield.
“This is the only way that we can deprive the terrorist state of its main instrument of terror – the possibility to hit our cities, our energy,” Zelenskiy told a White House news conference, standing next to President Joe Biden.
“We would like to get more Patriots … we are in war,” Zelenskiy told reporters at the White House.
Some Republicans have urged an end to aid and an audit to trace how allocated money has been spent.
Russia says it launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24 to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression that has killed .
‘RUSSIA MUST LOSE’
Congress is on the verge of approving an additional $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic assistance, on top of some $50 billion already sent to Ukraine this year as Europe’s biggest land conflict since World War Two drags on.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Washington was seeing no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to engage in peacemaking.
Zelenskiy’s aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the United States had “finally pinpointed the baseline” in the conflict.
“1. Russia must lose. 2. No ‘territory in exchange for pseudo/world’ compromises. 3. Ukraine will receive all necessary military aid. As much as possible. 4. No one cares about Russia’s ‘talk to us’ hysteria…,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine has come under repeated Russian strikes targeting its energy infrastructure in recent weeks, leaving millions without power or running water in the dead of winter.
Zelenskiy congratulated electrical workers for working round the clock, trying to keep the lights on as they marked Power Engineers’ Day on Thursday, a day after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.
“Even if the enemy can temporarily leave us without light, it will still never succeed in leaving us without the desire to make things right, to mend and restore to normal,” he said on Telegram. “…Together we will overcome any darkness.”
Serhiy Popko, the Kyiv city military administration chief, said the main problem was not power generation, but delivering electricity to households.
TASS news agency earlier cited Russia’s U.S. ambassador as saying that Zelenskiy’s visit to the United States confirmed that Washington’s statements about not wanting a conflict with Russia were empty words.
America’s provocative actions were leading to an escalation, the consequences of which were impossible to imagine, TASS cited Anatoly Antonov as saying.
Moscow said last week that Patriot systems, if delivered to Ukraine, would be a legitimate target for Russian strikes.
Zelenskiy joined a long list of world leaders to address joint meetings of the U.S. Senate and House, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, kings, queens and one pope.
Putin on Wednesday promised to give his military whatever it needs to prosecute the war and backed a plan to boost the size of the armed forces by more than 30%.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexandra Shea)