Present for "brave president": Selenskyj presents Biden with a soldier's medal

The new US aid package worth billions includes the Patriot air defense system for the first time.

Present for "brave president": Selenskyj presents Biden with a soldier's medal

The new US aid package worth billions includes the Patriot air defense system for the first time. During his visit to Washington, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy not only wants to thank his US counterpart Biden for his support. He also announces a series of negotiations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented his US counterpart Joe Biden with a soldier's medal at the beginning of a visit to Washington. "I want to give you something from a man who is truly a hero," Zelenskyy said to Biden in the Oval Office of the White House, handing him the medal. The Ukrainian soldier asked Selenskyj to pass the award on to Biden. "He's very brave and he said to take it to a very brave president."

Biden thanked him. "Underserved but greatly appreciated," he said. Shortly before, Selenskyj had been welcomed to the White House by Biden and his wife Jill with a red carpet. A press conference was scheduled after a joint conversation between Biden and the Ukrainian President behind closed doors. Zelenskyj also wanted to address the US Congress in the evening (local time). The US State Department, meanwhile, confirmed the planned delivery of Patriot systems to Ukraine.

"I am in Washington today to thank the American people, the President and Congress for their much-needed support. And also to continue working together and bring our victory closer," Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram. He will conduct a series of negotiations to strengthen Ukraine's resilience and defense capabilities. "Next year we have to give our whole country, our whole people, the Ukrainian flag and freedom back."

Zelenskyj's secretly prepared and short-term announced visit to the United States is his first trip abroad since Russia's war of aggression against his country began ten months ago. US President Joe Biden wanted to receive Selenskyj at 2 p.m. local time (8 p.m. CET) in the White House, at 4.30 p.m. local time they wanted to appear together before the press.

Zelenskyi tweeted that he was "on his way to the USA to (...) strengthen Ukraine's defense capabilities". US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would deliver the Patriot air defense system to Ukraine for the first time as part of a $1.85 billion aid package.

This would allow Ukraine to "shoot down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and aircraft at a significantly higher altitude than with previously delivered air defense systems," said Blinken. According to his ministry, the new package will increase US military aid to Ukraine to “an unprecedented $21.9 billion since Biden took office in January 2021.”

A US government official had previously announced that Biden Zelenskyj would agree to the delivery of the Patriot system. The official pointed out that the Ukrainian army still needs to be trained to use this device, which will happen "in a third country" and "take some time".

According to media reports, Ukrainian soldiers are to be trained in the use of the Patriot system at the US military training area in Grafenwoehr, Bavaria. The Patriots are primarily tasked with helping Ukraine fend off the massive attacks on the country's energy infrastructure that Russia has been waging for weeks.

The federal government welcomed Zelenskyj's trip to the USA and the Patriot delivery. The United States had previously agreed on the delivery of the air defense system with "close allies" like Germany, said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit. According to him, however, there are still no plans to deliver German Patriots to Ukraine - "since there are no systems at the moment that we could deliver". In this context, the spokesman referred to the planned relocation of German Patriot systems to Poland.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the new US arms shipments: "All of this will certainly lead to an aggravation of the conflict and does not bode well for Ukraine." According to him, Moscow does not expect Zelenskyy to change his stance on peace talks with Putin during his visit to the United States.

Putin discussed his army's goals for 2023 with senior military officials on Wednesday. "The armed forces and the combat capabilities of our armed forces are constantly increasing every day," the Kremlin chief said at the televised meeting. "Of course we will continue this process." The "combat readiness" of the nuclear forces should also be improved.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called it "necessary" to further increase the number of personnel in the army. The armed forces would have to grow to 1.5 million soldiers. The previous target, set by Putin in August, was 1.15 million. Shoigu also called for the age for compulsory military service to be set at between 21 and 30 years, up to now it has been between 18 and 27 years. Russia had suffered severe setbacks in the Ukraine war in recent months. As a result, the Russian army had to withdraw from the north-eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv and from the city of Kherson in the south.

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