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Zelensky heads to US for first trip since war began

[Press center7] time:2023-05-30 18:54:07 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center4 click:183order

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is on his way to Washington, where he will meet US President Joe Biden.

It is his first foreign trip since Russia invaded in February.

Details of his travel are unlikely to be made public, given the security risks involved, but he was seen earlier at a Polish train station.

The US has confirmed it will supply Ukraine with a Patriot missile system, significantly increasing the country's air defence capability.

"On my way to the US to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine," Mr Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

He also said he would give a speech to Congress and hold a number of meetings.

The visit was, unsurprisingly, kept as a secret, with official confirmation coming only hours before it was due to start.

The US has been Ukraine's most important ally in the war, committing $50bn (£41bn) of humanitarian, financial and security assistance - far more than any other country.

Mr Zelensky has held regular phone calls with Western leaders since the start of the war. But by hosting him at the White House, President Biden will signal that Washington is committed to supporting the country for "as long as it takes", as has been repeatedly said.

In a speech to defence chiefs on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country was fighting against Nato forces in Ukraine.

"It's well known that the military potential and capabilities of almost all Nato's main countries is being actively used against Russia."

In its briefing ahead of Mr Zelensky's visit, the White House confirmed a new package of nearly $2bn of security assistance for Ukraine.

That includes a new Patriot missile system - a sophisticated air defence system that will help Ukraine to protect its cities from missiles and drones that Russia has fired at critical facilities.

The attacks, which officials here say are designed to break Ukrainian morale, have left millions without electricity and heating as temperatures across the country plummet below freezing.

President Zelensky, however, is unlikely to receive the longer-range weapons he's been calling for, to hit Russian targets away from the front lines.

In his address to Congress on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader will probably use the infrastructure strikes to plead for more weapons. There, he will find some Republicans who have voiced criticism about the level of US support, as Congress considers approving an extra $50bn in aid.

The monthly cost of defence for Ukraine is reportedly about $5bn (£4.1bn).

The visit to Washington comes a day after President Zelensky, dressed in combat khaki, was in Bakhmut, a front-line city in eastern Ukraine that has seen some of the fiercest battles in this war.

He met troops and handed out awards to soldiers, the presidency said.

The visit was a significant show of defiance - and a demonstration of support for Ukrainian forces on the front line.

Soldiers gave Mr Zelensky a Ukrainian flag with their names signed on it and asked him to give it to President Biden and the US Congress, in a moment that was captured on camera.

President Zelensky has vowed to take back all territory that's under occupation, including areas invaded before February. Before the visit, in his traditional evening address, he said Ukraine would do "everything possible and impossible, expected and unexpected" to get "the results that all Ukrainians expect".

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the US military estimates that at least 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured, along with some 40,000 civilian deaths.

The UN has recorded 7.8 million people as refugees from Ukraine across Europe, including Russia. However, the figure does not include those who have been forced to flee their homes but remain in Ukraine.

(editor-in-charge:Press center6)

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