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Russia is using “winter as a weapon” on Ukraine, President Joe Biden said during a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday.
“Russia is purposefully attacking Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, destroying the systems providing heat and light for the Ukrainian people during the coldest, darkest part of the year,” Biden said during the news conference. “Russia is using winter as a weapon — freezing people, starving people, cutting them off from one another. It’s the latest example of the outrageous atrocities the Russian forces are committing against innocent Ukrainian civilians, children, and their families.”
Wednesday marked the 300th day since Russia invaded Ukraine, and Zelensky traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with Biden. It was the first time he’d left his country since the war began.
At the news conference, Biden described Russia’s actions as “unprovoked, unjustified” and an “all-out assault on the free people of Ukraine.”
Biden specifically promised $2 billion in defensive weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, which includes air defense, artillery systems, tanks and armored vehicles, and another 200,000 rounds of additional ammunition. The US is also helping Ukraine make emergency repairs to its power transmission system and strengthen the stability of its grid, he said. Since March, the US has taken in 221,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Through a translator, Zelensky, who was dressed in the military green sweatshirt and cargo pants that have marked his wartime leadership, thanked Biden and Americans. He said he wants the world to know peace.
“I wish you peace,” Zelensky said. “And I think that is the main thing, and you understand it only when the war is in your country. When somebody like these terrorists from Russia come to your houses. And I wish you to see your children alive and adult. And I wish you to see your children when they will go to universities, and to see their children. I think that is the main thing.”
Biden said the war between Russia and Ukraine could end if Russian President Vladimir Putin had “dignity” and ended it. Zelensky said Ukraine would not agree to a peace plan that resulted in a loss of sovereignty, territory, or freedom.
“The longer this war lasts, the longer this aggression lasts, there will be more parents who live for the sake of vengeance,” Zelensky said.
Though it wasn’t yet clear how Congress would vote on additional aid, Biden vowed the US would give Ukraine what it needs to defend itself.
“We are staying with Ukraine as long as Ukraine is there,” he said.
On Wednesday night, Zelensky spoke emotionally before a joint session of Congress, asking members to approve $50 billion in aid.
Zelensky was met with standing ovations and applause throughout his speech. He said the US and Ukraine were allies and next year, the two countries must fight together to defend freedom.
“The battle is not only for life, freedom, and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer,” Zelensky said. “The struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live … It will define whether it will be a democracy for Ukrainians and Americans for all. This battle cannot be frozen or postponed. It cannot be ignored.”
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