June 23, 2024

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Biden meets with Zelensky in Paris as Ukraine demands more aid against new Russian offensive

Biden meets with Zelensky in Paris as Ukraine demands more aid against new Russian offensive

President Joe Biden will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris on Friday, as the United States clashes with its ally and with the Kremlin over the decision to allow Kiev to launch strikes inside Russia using American weapons.

The meeting in the French capital comes at a time when the Ukrainian army is under pressure from a new Russian offensive in the north and intensified attacks in the east, a perilous moment that has prompted its leaders to pressure allies to ease Western arms restrictions.

It also comes on the heels of the 80th anniversary events of D-Day in Normandy, which Zelensky attended and where Biden drew parallels between that pivotal battle to liberate Europe from Nazi domination and Ukraine’s current battle against Russia.

Biden and Zelensky met at the White House in December, when the Ukrainian leader came to press Congress to approve new military aid for his struggling forces on the front lines. But Kiev has become frustrated with the pace of military aid.

Biden is expected to announce a $225 million arms package when he meets Zelensky in Paris after French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the two leaders, gave Kiev a boost of his own on Thursday.

Macron announced that France would provide its Mirage fighter jets and train a brigade of Ukrainian soldiers, but the details were not immediately clear.

Tensions between Kiev and Moscow’s allies have reached an all-time high following the decision to allow Ukraine limited use of Western-supplied weapons to strike military targets within Russia’s border regions.

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Despite this shift, Kiev’s forces remain outnumbered and outgunned, and Zelensky is demanding more.

He has already said that a limited easing of restrictions is not enough, and he believes Ukraine is keen to use other long-range Western weapons to strike deeper into enemy territory.

But the new support for Ukraine has angered the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that he might deploy weapons to countries that might attack the West in retaliation, and said Washington and its partners were wrong to assume he would never use nuclear weapons.

Putin is scheduled to speak at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum later on Friday, where he is likely to touch on the same topics.

His forces faltered in the Kharkiv border region after launching a new offensive last month, straining the limited resources of the Ukrainian military even further. Although Russia took control of a number of villages in the first weeks of the attack, Kiev appears to have succeeded in halting the advance.

Biden indicated in an interview on Thursday that Washington remains cautious, stressing that Kiev still cannot use American weapons to strike deep into Russia, for example, to target Moscow or the Kremlin itself.

But he nevertheless gave his rhetorical support to the Kiev cause, linking it directly with the Allied fight against Adolf Hitler.

Speaking at a D-Day ceremony at the American Cemetery in Normandy earlier Thursday, Biden described Putin as a “tyrant bent on domination.”

Speaking about US support for Europe’s current struggle against World War II veterans, he said: “We will not withdraw.” “Because if we do, Ukraine will be subjugated.”

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Biden will deliver another speech on Friday, echoing former President Ronald Reagan in his speech about democracy and freedom at Pointe du Hoc — the Normandy cliffs that separate the beaches where American troops landed on D-Day.