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Biden invites Zelensky to White House Tuesday as war funding dries up

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  Kathmandu      December 11 2023


President Joe Biden has invited his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said, after the administration warned it will run out of money for Ukraine aid in weeks unless feuding US lawmakers act.

The two leaders "will discuss Ukraine's urgent needs" as it fights off a Russian invasion, and "the vital importance of the United States' continued support at this critical moment," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Sunday.

The Ukrainian presidency said in its own statement that the meeting will focus on key issues such as "further defense cooperation between Ukraine and the United States, particularly through joint projects on the production of weapons and air defense systems, as well as the coordination of efforts between our countries in the coming year."

Republican senators last week blocked $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package.

It was a setback for Biden, who had urged lawmakers to approve the funds, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not stop with victory in Ukraine and could even attack a NATO nation.

"This cannot wait," Biden said in an impassioned, televised address at the White House on Wednesday.

"Frankly, I think it's stunning that we've gotten to this point in the first place, where Republicans in Congress are willing to give Putin the greatest gift he could hope for."

The White House said Tuesday's meeting will come at a vital moment, "as Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine."

At the start of December, Putin signed a decree to boost Russian forces by 15 percent to support his invasion of Ukraine, increasing the army by some 170,000 people.

Moscow has recently given signs about a possible peace deal, although one involving a shrunken, neutral Ukraine that would be impossible to swallow for Zelensky.

The US State Department announced a stopgap $175 million tranche of new aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including prized HIMARS rockets, shells, missiles and ammunition.

The funding row underscores signs that Western support for Ukraine is fraying just as Kyiv's counteroffensive falters and Putin's forces push for new gains.

Ukraine's offensive has employed billions of dollars' worth of Western weapons but the front lines have barely shifted in more than a year and Russian attacks along the front have intensified.