US Patriot Missiles, New $45B Aid Package for Ukraine

Upon his return to Kyiv from his wartime visit to Washington, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy defiantly said Ukrainian forces “are working toward victory,” despite Russia’s relentless artillery, rocket and mortar fire and airstrikes on Ukraine.

“We will overcome everything,” Zelenskyy pledged on Telegram. “We are coming back from Washington with … something that will really help.”

The United States has promised Patriot missiles to help Ukraine fight against the Russian invasion. Zelenskyy has long asked for Patriot missiles to help counter Russian airstrikes, which have destroyed cities, towns and villages during 10 months of conflict and knocked out power and water supplies across the country over the past three months.

U.S. lawmakers are expected to approve on Friday a $45 billion aid package for Ukraine. This package follows U.S. aid worth about $50 billion sent to Ukraine previously this year.

Zelenskyy also thanked U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress for supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

During a Friday visit to Tula, a center for arms manufacturing, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russia’s defense industry chiefs to do more to ensure that the Russian army quickly received all the weapons, equipment and military hardware it needed to fight in Ukraine.

“The most important key task of our military-industrial complex is to provide our units and front-line forces with everything they need: weapons, equipment, ammunition and gear in the necessary quantities and of the right quality in the shortest possible time frames,” he said.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday in its intelligence update on Ukraine that Putin has been “presented with plans to expand the Russian military by around 30% to 1.5 million personnel.”

The ministry said the proposal was made Wednesday and that “Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu explained that the expansion would involve at least two brigades in northwestern Russia growing to divisional strength.”

The British defense minister explained the move by citing “the supposed threat from Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO.”

“This constitutes one of the first insights into how Russia aspires to adapt its forces to the long-term strategic challenges resulting from its invasion of Ukraine,” the ministry update said. “It remains unclear how Russia will find the recruits to complete such an expansion at a time when its forces are under unprecedented pressure in Ukraine.”

Visit sends message

In Western Europe, Zelenskyy’s visit to the U.S. Capital was seen as symbolic, a message to the world that the U.S. will continue to support Ukraine intensely in its fight for survival.

Observers in the region were pleased to hear Biden point to the need to “maintain NATO unity” when it came to arms supplies.

“This strongly suggests that it is not the U.S., but other influential NATO states that are not convinced of the need to support Ukraine even more intensively,” Polish historian Lukasz Adamski of the Mieroszewski Center in Warsaw told VOA.

However, Putin said Zelenskyy’s trip only fueled the conflict.

“They say they may send Patriot there, fine, we will crack the Patriot, too,” Putin told reporters. He said the delivery of the battery “only drags out the conflict.”

In Ukraine, Zelenskyy’s Washington visit symbolizes the relationship between two countries honed by the war.

It was very important for Ukrainians and Zelenskyy to convey the appreciation of the Ukrainian people for the unwavering support the U.S. has shown to Ukraine, Ukrainian Mykola Davydiuk, a political analyst and director at Think Tank Politics, told VOA.

Despite Putin’s assessment that the U.S. delivery of a Patriot missile battery would extend the conflict, he said Russia is ready for talks with Ukraine on ending the conflict.

“One way or another, all armed conflicts end with talks,” Putin said. “The sooner this understanding comes to those who oppose us the better. We never rejected the talks.

“We will strive for an end to this and the sooner the better, of course,” he added.

The White House quickly countered Putin’s comments.

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said Putin had “shown absolutely zero indication that he’s willing to negotiate” an end to the war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“Everything he [Putin] is doing on the ground and in the air bespeaks a man who wants to continue to visit violence upon the Ukrainian people [and] escalate the war,” Kirby told reporters, according to Reuters.

Shipment from North Korea

Also Thursday, Kirby said U.S. intelligence officers had determined that North Korea had completed an initial shipment of arms, including rockets and missiles, to private Russian military company the Wagner Group last month. The action was seen as a sign of the group’s expanding role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The British government also condemned the shipment.

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said no effort had been made for North Korea to supply weapons to Russia and dismissed the talk as “gossip and speculation,” Reuters reported.

The Russian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment. North Korea’s foreign ministry denied the reports, calling them groundless.

Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze contributed to this report. Some material for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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