Russia-Ukraine war live: Zelenskiy meets Biden at White House as Russian defence minister calls for military to be expanded to 1.5m | Ukraine

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Zelenskiy arrives in the US

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has arrived in the United States, a US official said.

The Ukrainian leader will meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress in his first foreign visit since the Russian invasion.

Key events

The UN will allocate an additional $20 million from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund to support over 300 civil society organizations and volunteer groups.

“These groups have always been the backbone of the humanitarian response in Ukraine and even more since the war started in late February,” said Denise Brown, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.

“They are in the front line, taking risks to make sure people whose lives have been torn apart by months of war receive support for their daily needs: water, food, medicines, shelter when their houses have been damaged,” she added.

“It’s an honour to be by your side in united defense against what is a brutal, brutal war,” US president Joe Biden told Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the Oval Office ahead of their bilateral meeting.

Zelenskiy went on to present Biden with a medal from a Ukrainian artillery captain on the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

“Undeserved, but much appreciated,” Biden said upon receiving the medal.

Zelenskiy awards Biden the Ukrainian cross for military merit in Oval Office – video

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrives at White House

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has arrived at the White House shortly after 2pm Eastern Standard Time (7pm GMT) on Wednesday.

He was greeted by US president Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he welcomes him to the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Washington. First lady Jill Biden is at right.
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he welcomes him to the White House on Wednesday. First lady Jill Biden is at right. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House on December 21, 2022 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House on December 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In an overwhelming vote of 93-2, the senate confirmed the appointment of Lynne M. Tracy as the new US ambassador to Russia on Wednesday.

The vote took place hours before Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Washington DC on Wednesday to meet with president Joe Biden.

Tracy, a career diplomat of the US Foreign Service, “will be tasked with standing up to [Russian president Vladimir] Putin,” senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said, the Associated Press reports.

Former US ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing to be the next ambassador to Russia in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Former US ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing to be the next ambassador to Russia in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Images of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s arrival to the US have been shared on his official Telegram account.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy walks with Chief of Protocol of the United States Rufus Gifford as he arrives in Washington for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and an address to a joint meeting of Congress, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, U.S., December 21, 2022.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy walks with Chief of Protocol of the United States Rufus Gifford as he arrives in Washington for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and an address to a joint meeting of Congress, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, U.S., December 21, 2022. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

“I am in Washington today to thank the American people, the President and the Congress for their much-needed support. And also to continue cooperation to bring our victory closer,” Zelenskiy wrote.

“I will hold a series of negotiations to strengthen the resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine. In particular, we will discuss bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and the United States of America with US President Joseph Biden,” he added.

“Next year, we must return the Ukrainian flag and freedom to our entire land, to all our people.”

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks with Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova as he arrives in Washington for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and an address to a joint meeting of Congress, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks with Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova as he arrives in Washington for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and an address to a joint meeting of Congress, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Ukraine’s corn production could fall to 22-23 million tonnes this year from 41.9 million in 2021 because of a reduction in the harvested area caused by Russia’s invasion, its agriculture minister said on Wednesday.

Reuters reports:

“It would be good if we harvest 22 to 23 million tonnes (of corn),” agriculture minister Mykola Solsky, whose country is a major global exporter of corn, told Reuters in an interview.

The ministry in September forecast the 2022 corn crop at 25 million to 27 million tonnes.

Solsky said farmers, facing a lack of fuel and funds, had left a lot of corn in their fields, and these areas could be harvested by spring.

“It means less volume and worse grain quality,” he said.

Ukraine has already completed the 2022 wheat and barley harvest, threshing 19.4 million and 5.6 million tonnes respectively.

Farmers had also harvested 18.4 million tonnes of corn from 70% of the expected area with a yield of 6.27 tonnes per hectare as of Dec. 15, according to agriculture ministry data.

The overall grain harvest totalled almost 45 million tonnes as of Dec. 15 and the ministry, which has forecast a total harvest of 51 million tonnes, has said 49.2 million tonnes could potentially be exported, depending on the logistical situation.

The exports could include 16.3 million tonnes of wheat, it said.

Ukraine’s exports have fallen significantly so far this season due to the war and Russian blockades of Ukrainian seaports.

A load of corn is poured into a tractor with grain sleeves, temporary grain storage solution, in the village of Kozyn in Kyiv region, Ukraine November 9, 2022.
A load of corn is poured into a tractor with grain sleeves, temporary grain storage solution, in the village of Kozyn in Kyiv region, Ukraine November 9, 2022. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters

Summary of the day so far

It’s 8pm in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made his first known foreign trip since Russia invaded Ukraine more than 300 days ago, travelling to the US on a high-stakes visit to secure support for his war effort well into next year. The Ukrainian president was filmed travelling with cars outside Przemyśl railway station in Poland.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy leaves Ukraine for first time since war started – video

  • Zelenskiy later flew to Washington DC for meetings with the US president, Joe Biden, at the White House and to address politicians in Congress. While in the air, Zelenskiy tweeted that he planned to strengthen the country’s “resilience and defence capabilities”.

  • The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has announced an $1.85 billion (£1.53 billion) in additional military assistance for Ukraine, including a transfer of the Patriot air defence system. The assistance includes a $1 billion drawdown to provide Ukraine with “expanded air defence and precision-strike capabilities” and an additional $850 million in security assistance, Blinken said in a statement.

  • The Kremlin has said nothing good will come of Zelenskiy’s trip to Washington and that Russia sees no chance of peace talks with Kyiv. In a call with reporters, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that continued western arms supplies to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict – something that could backfire on Kyiv, he warned.

  • The US is reportedly considering formally designating Russia as an “aggressor state” with lawmakers waiting to receive President Zelenskiy’s approval of the proposal when he addresses Congress tonight. The Biden administration has been working with Congress over the last several months on legislation that would formally designate Russia as an “aggressor state”, multiple sources have told CNN.

  • Air raid alerts were heard across all parts of Ukraine on Wednesday, according to local officials. There was no immediate word of a new wave of Russian attacks.

  • Vladimir Putin has pledged to give his army anything it asks for in a meeting with Russia’s top military officials as the war in Ukraine enters its 11th month. Speaking in Moscow at the closing session of the expanded board of the ministry of defence, Putin said there were no “funding restrictions” for the military. “The country, the government will give everything that the army asks for. Everything,” the Russian president added.

  • Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has called for his country’s military to be expanded from its current 1 million servicemen to 1.5 million amid the fighting in Ukraine. Speaking at an end-of-year conference with Russia’s military chiefs and Putin, also proposed raising the age range for mandatory Russian military service to cover Russian citizens aged 21-30.

  • Two Italian journalists and war correspondents said they were “intentionally targeted” by Russian armed forces in Kherson while they were reporting near the frontline. Claudio Locatelli, an independent reporter who has covered the war in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, said their car was signposted as press and that the fire came from the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Russian forces are stationed.

  • The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has undertaken a surprise trip to Beijing and held talks with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during which he said they discussed the Ukraine conflict. Medvedev, now deputy chair of Russia’s security council, said he and Xi had discussed the two countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership, as well as Ukraine.

  • The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, will visit Russia on Thursday for discussions on the creation of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Russia’s envoy to the international institutions in Vienna.

Zelenskiy arrives in the US

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has arrived in the United States, a US official said.

The Ukrainian leader will meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress in his first foreign visit since the Russian invasion.

Pjotr Sauer

Pjotr Sauer

Vladimir Putin has pledged to give his army anything it asks for in a meeting with Russia’s top military officials as the war in Ukraine enters its 11th month.

Speaking in Moscow at the closing session of the expanded board of the ministry of defence, Putin said there were no “funding restrictions” for the military. “The country, the government will give everything that the army asks for. Everything,” the Russian president added.

Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow during the closing session of the expanded board of the ministry of defence.
Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow during the closing session of the expanded board of the ministry of defence. Photograph: Sergey Fadeichev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is expected to dramatically increase its spending on the military in the next two years, as Putin signals that he is preparing for a prolonged and costly war with Ukraine. Earlier this month, he said the conflict could turn into a “long-term process”, and the Kremlin shows no intention of climbing down from its maximalist goals of regime change in Ukraine.

Putin’s speech on Wednesday was also an acknowledgment that the mobilisation he announced in September – the first since the second world war – had not gone smoothly.

Read the full story here:

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Two Italian journalists and war correspondents said they were “intentionally targeted” by Russian armed forces in Kherson while they were reporting near the frontline.

Claudio Locatelli, an independent reporter who has covered the war in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, said their car was signposted as press and that the fire came from the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Russian forces are stationed.

‘’Our car was properly marked,” he says.

There was no one else around. Taking into account the location of the troops and the dynamic of shelling, It was an intended attack. There is no excuse for shooting at the press.

One projectile damaged the car and Locatelli reported a minor injury before they managed to reach a safe place.

The reporter said their car was signposted as press and that the fire came from the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Russian forces are stationed.
The reporter said their car was signposted as press and that the fire came from the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Russian forces are stationed. Photograph: Handout
Italian journalist wounded by Russian artillery.
Italian journalist wounded by Russian artillery. Photograph: Handout

“I lost some blood but the wound is slight,” said Locatelli in a video with colleague Niccolò Celesti. “

If I had opened the door I would have lost a leg or worse. Luckily, we’re safe and sound.

Ukrainian police has launched an investigation into the incident and described the attack as a ‘’potential war crime’’.

The liberation of Kherson last November marked a major battlefield gain for Kyiv – reconquered after the Russians retreated to the east bank of the Dnieper River. However, early in December, civilians were forced to evacuate due to the intensifying Russian shelling.

US announces $1.85 billion in additional military assistance for Ukraine, including Patriot air defence system

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has announced an $1.85 billion (£1.53 billion) in additional military assistance for Ukraine, including a transfer of the Patriot air defence system.

The assistance includes a $1 billion drawdown to provide Ukraine with “expanded air defence and precision-strike capabilities” and an additional $850 million in security assistance, Blinken said in a statement.

The statement reads:

Pursuant to a delegation of authority from the President, today I am authorising our twenty-eighth drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine since August 2021. This $1 billion drawdown will provide Ukraine with expanded air defense and precision-strike capabilities, as well as additional munitions and critical equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself on the battlefield.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address the US Congress at 7.30pm Eastern Time tonight (0030 GMT on Thursday), according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In an invitation to Zelenskiy to address Congress, Pelosi paid tribute to the Ukrainian president’s “extraordinary” leadership.

She wrote:

America and the world are in awe of the heroism of the Ukrainian people. In the face of Putin’s horrific atrocities, Ukrainian freedom fighters have inspired the world with an iron will and an unbreakable spirit – fighting back against Russia’s brutal, unjustified invasion.

During this dark moment, your courageous, patriotic, indefatigable leadership has rallied not only your people, but the world, to join the frontlines of the fight for freedom. America and our allies have proudly answered your call: imposing devastating sanctions on Putin and ensuring Ukraine has the resources it needs to win this war. And it was a privilege to hear from you and from Speaker Stefanchuk at the First Parliamentary Summit of the International Crimea Platform about how the importance of the free world’s unshakable solidarity with Ukraine.

She said she looked forward to hearing his “message of unity, resilience and determination”, adding:

The fight for Ukraine is the fight for democracy itself.

The US is reportedly considering formally designating Russia as an “aggressor state” with lawmakers waiting to receive Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s approval of the proposal when he addresses Congress tonight.

The “aggressor state” label is less hawkish than the “state sponsor of terrorism” label that many lawmakers had been pushing the administration to impose on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The White House has so far resisted, citing the negative consequences that the “state sponsor of terrorism” label could have on US-Russia diplomacy on issues including prisoner swaps, and the UN-brokered deal to allow grain out of Ukraine.

The Biden administration has been working with Congress over the last several months on legislation that would formally designate Russia as an “aggressor state”, multiple sources have told CNN.

If Zelenskiy endorses the proposal, the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, may introduce the legislation as a standalone bill this week, according to sources.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has now arrived in the US, Weijia Jiang of CBS News writes, where he is expected to meet President Joe Biden at the White House and address a joint session of Congress.

Summary of the day so far

It’s 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where things stand:

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has confirmed he is on his way to the US, his first foreign trip since the war broke out 300 days ago. The US president, Joe Biden, released a statement saying that Zelenskiy will go to the White House on Wednesday before addressing a joint session of Congress “demonstrating the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine”. A senior US administration official denied that Biden will pressure Zelenskiy to seek a diplomatic end to the war.

  • Biden will announce “a significant new package of security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression”, he said in a statement. The package will be worth nearly $2bn, including a Patriot missile battery. The US will, in a third country, train Ukrainian forces in how to operate the Patriot system, it has been reported.

  • Germany has no principled objection to following the US in providing Ukraine with Patriot air defence systems, but it does not currently have any available to send, the government spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, said. Germany has agreed to deploy three Patriot missile systems in eastern Poland to help secure its Nato ally’s airspace.

  • Zelenskiy’s visit to the US is “extremely significant” and will disprove Russian attempts to show that US-Ukrainian relations are “cooling”, Kyiv’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said. The Ukrainian president’s trip and meeting with his US counterpart will provide an opportunity to explain the real situation in Ukraine, what weapons Kyiv needs to fight Moscow, and why it needs them, Podolyak told Reuters.

  • The Kremlin has said nothing good will come of Zelenskiy’s trip to Washington and that Russia sees no chance of peace talks with Kyiv. In a call with reporters, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that continued western arms supplies to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict – something that could backfire on Kyiv, he warned.

  • Air raid alerts were heard across all parts of Ukraine on Wednesday, according to local officials. There was no immediate word of a new wave of Russian attacks.

  • Vladimir Putin has vowed that Russia will fulfil all the goals of what Moscow calls its “military campaign” in Ukraine in an end-of-year meeting of his top defence officials. In his speech where he laid his country’s military plans to defence chiefs in Moscow, Putin said he will ensure that Russia’s nuclear forces are combat-ready and that there were no financial limits on what the government would provide its military.

  • Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has called for his country’s military to be expanded from its current 1 million servicemen to 1.5 million amid the fighting in Ukraine. Speaking at an end-of-year conference with Russia’s military chiefs and Putin, also proposed raising the age range for mandatory Russian military service to cover Russian citizens aged 21-30.

  • The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has undertaken a surprise trip to Beijing and held talks with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during which he said they discussed the Ukraine conflict. Medvedev, now deputy chair of Russia’s security council, said he and Xi had discussed the two countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership, as well as Ukraine.

  • The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, will visit Russia on Thursday for discussions on the creation of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Russia’s envoy to the international institutions in Vienna.

Good afternoon from London. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong still with you on today’s Russia-Ukraine war blog. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Preparations are under way in Washington ahead of Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to meet with Joe Biden and address Congress, in the Ukrainian president’s first foreign trip since Russia’s war of aggression began.

A worker installs Ukrainian and US flags near the US Capitol.
A worker installs Ukrainian and US flags near the US Capitol. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
A worker installs Ukrainian and US flags along Pennsylvania Avenue ahead of a visit by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
A worker installs Ukrainian and US flags along Pennsylvania Avenue ahead of a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters




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