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US to boost military aid to Ukraine after White House meeting

US President Joe Biden is expected to provide a further $1.85 billion (A$2.76 billion) to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia after meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Washington.

US President Joe Biden (right) welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the White House. Photo: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

US President Joe Biden (right) welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the White House. Photo: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Zelenskiy’s political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak had said earlier that the visit, his first overseas trip since Russia invaded 300 days ago, showed the deep trust between Kyiv and Washington and offered him the opportunity to explain what arms Kyiv needed.

“I will hold a series of negotiations to strengthen the resilience and defence capabilities of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in a statement on Telegram on Wednesday alongside photos of him on US soil as he prepared to go into talks with Biden at the White House.

“Next year, we must return the Ukrainian flag and freedom to our entire land, to all our people.”

Wearing his trademark olive green pants and sweater, Zelenskiy arrived at the White House. He met Biden and his wife on the lawn and Biden guided the Ukrainian president with an arm around his back.

They will participate in a joint news conference with the US president and then go to Capitol Hill to address a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Ahead of Zelenskiy’s arrival, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the United States would provide the extra military aid for Ukraine including a Patriot air defence system to help it ward off barrages of Russian missiles.

Ukraine in recent weeks has come under repeated Russian missile and drone strikes targeting its energy infrastructure, leaving millions of people without electricity or running water in the dead of a freezing winter.

The Patriot is deemed to be one of the most advanced US air defence systems, offering protection against attacking aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles.

“Weapons, weapons and more weapons. It is important to personally explain why we need certain types of weapons,” Podolyak said.

“In particular, armoured vehicles, the latest missile defence systems and long-range missiles.”

Zelenskiy has made a point of staying close to his people during the war and advocating for his former Soviet state on the world stage, with daring trips to battlefronts, countless calls with world leaders and videolink speeches to parliaments and international institutions.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC that diplomacy would be discussed with Zelenskiy, but the Ukrainian leader would be put under no pressure for peace talks.

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Kirby said Washington was seeing no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to engage in peacemaking.

“Clearly we’re going to make sure that President Zelenskiy, when he leaves this country, knows that he’s leaving with the full support of the United States going forward,” Kirby told MSNBC in a separate interview earlier.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it saw no chance of peace talks with Kyiv. In a call with reporters, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that continued Western arms supplies to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict.

Putin was defiant on Wednesday at an end-of-year meeting of top defence chiefs, saying Russian forces were fighting like heroes in Ukraine.

He said there were no financial limits on what the government would provide in terms of equipment and hardware, but the army had to learn from and fix the problems it had experienced in Ukraine.

He gave his backing to a plan by his defence minister to boost the size of the armed forces by more than 30 per cent to 1.5 million combat personnel.

A call-up of 300,000 reservists in September was plagued with problems, with many men physically unfit or too old and lacking basic equipment.

-AAP

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