Ukraine to get Patriot missiles and huge military aid package as Zelensky visits White House

Washington DC - The United States is to provide Ukraine with $1.85 billion in additional military assistance, "including the first transfer of a Patriot air defense system," Washington confirmed on Wednesday, shortly ahead of a landmark meeting between US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House.

US President Joe Biden (r.) welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on the South Lawn of the White House on December 21, 2022.
US President Joe Biden (r.) welcomes Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on the South Lawn of the White House on December 21, 2022.  © OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP

Zelensky arrived in Washington Wednesday morning for his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion of his country in February. The US is Ukraine's largest single financial and military backer.

"As Russia continues its brutal attacks against critical infrastructure in Ukraine, the United States welcomes President Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington DC today to underscore our enduring commitment to the people of Ukraine," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The Patriot system, he said, is "capable of bringing down cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, and aircraft at a significantly higher ceiling than previously provided" air defense systems.

Joke of the Night for April 14, 2024: The best jokes to laugh the day away
Joke of the Day Joke of the Night for April 14, 2024: The best jokes to laugh the day away

Russian attacks from the air have in recent months targeted Ukraine's civilian infrastructure such as power plants, leading at times to mass blackouts and a lack of heating in parts of the country.

The Kremlin earlier on Wednesday warned Washington that "broadening" the range of arms being given to Kyiv "certainly leads to an escalation of the conflict and does not bode well for Ukraine."

After his meeting with Biden and a press conference, Zelensky is due to address a joint session of Congress – "demonstrating the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine," according to the White House.

Ukrainian soldiers to be trained in third country

US President Joe Biden and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky meet in the Oval Office of the White House on December 21, 2022.
US President Joe Biden and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky meet in the Oval Office of the White House on December 21, 2022.  © Brendan Smialowski / AFP

A senior administration official had said earlier that the Patriots would be part of a new US aid package, adding that the US was set to train Ukrainian forces on how to operate the system "in a third country."

The training of Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriot systems could "possibly take place in Europe and even more possibly in Germany," he said.

Ever more advanced weaponry from Western powers has helped Ukraine push Russian forces back from parts of Ukraine it had previously occupied.

Joke of the Day for April 14, 2024: Get your funny on
Joke of the Day Joke of the Day for April 14, 2024: Get your funny on

President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he was convinced that Moscow was winning its war against Ukraine, despite reports of battlefield setbacks.

His defense minister meanwhile proposed expanding the ranks of Russian troops to counter NATO's Nordic expansion.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he planned to raise the number of soldiers to 1.5 million, representing an increase of 350,000.

Cover photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP

More on Ukraine conflict: