President Biden on Wednesday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using “winter as a weapon,” remarks he made at the top of a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who is visiting the White House.
“I’m delighted you were able to make the trip and be here. And, you know, it’s an honor to be by your side,” Biden said to Zelensky at their historic meeting. He added that Putin is “escalating his assaults on civilians” and trying to “use winter as a weapon.”
Russia’s war with Ukraine is now stretching into its tenth month.
Biden also announced ahead of Zelensky’s visit that the U.S. is providing an additional $2 billion in assistance aimed to help Ukraine defend against Russian aerial onslaughts that are targeting its energy and electricity infrastructure.
The $2 billion will include Patriot missile batteries, which can help target ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as unmanned aircraft.
Zelensky, at the White House, said he and Biden will discuss topics including “so many challenges in Ukraine, in Europe, in the world, from energy to the situation on the battlefield.”
He added that he and the people of Ukraine appreciated all support from the U.S.
“That is your leadership. Thank you first of all,” he said, adding that he also appreciates “ordinary” Americans for their support.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby earlier on Wednesday said that Zelensky’s unprecedented visit to Washington comes as the war enters a new phase. Putin has stepped up his attacks on civilian infrastructure and targets, he said, while highlighting the importance of providing air defense capabilities.
“No question about it, Mr. Putin is obviously not interested in diplomacy right now, quite the contrary. He’s interested in killing more civilian Ukrainians and knocking out the lights and knocking out the heat as the winter approaches. We also have to make sure that we also stay focused on the security assistance,” Kirby told CNN.
In the bilateral meeting on Wednesday, Biden also said that the U.S. “will support Ukraine pursuing a just peace.”
Biden and Zelensky are expected to discuss what a “just peace” could look like and a potential end to the war in Ukraine.
Zelensky’s visit to Washington is the first time he has been known to leave Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February. Biden and Zelensky will hold a joint press conference following their meeting and Zelensky will address a joint meeting of Congress in the evening.