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Biden to Host Zelenskyy Amid Congressional Impasse on Ukraine Aid

President Joe Biden will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House Tuesday as the U.S. administration increases its push for Congress to approve additional aid to Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia.

The visit is intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion,” the White House said in a statement Sunday.

Zelenskyy’s office confirmed that he had accepted Biden’s invitation. He also has been invited to speak to a meeting of all senators.

Biden has asked Congress for a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine ($61.4 billion) and Israel, along with other national security priorities. But on Wednesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked the legislation, saying major U.S. border security changes were needed.

Some Republicans are asking for the immediate deportation of illegal migrants, stripping them of a chance to seek U.S. asylum. They have also called for greatly scaling back Biden administration programs that have allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the U.S. lawfully.

With U.S. Congress about to go on holiday recess in less than a week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed grave concern about U.S. aid not reaching Ukraine in time as winter looms.

Speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Blinken said the United States is running out of money for Ukraine’s war against Russia. He called on Congress to act on supplemental funding for Ukraine.

“We need to see the supplemental budget request go through as quickly as possible,” Blinken said in the interview. He stressed that Ukraine has done an “extraordinary job” fighting Russian aggression, taking 50% of its territory back over the past year.

Blinken also pointed out that 90% of the money that goes to Ukraine’s assistance is invested in the U.S. “In terms of the production of materials and munitions and weapons that go to the Ukrainians, it’s right here, in America,” he said.

Relatives of Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russia hold posters and signs demanding that they be freed, at a flashmob in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 10, 2023.
Relatives of Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russia hold posters and signs demanding that they be freed, at a flashmob in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 10, 2023.

Lavrov blames Ukraine, US

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sunday that the West was trying to exhaust Russia in Ukraine and that any peace talks would have to be initiated by Kyiv.

“It is up to the Ukrainians to recognize how deep they are in the hole where the Americans put them,” Lavrov said of the war.

When asked what the chances were of diplomacy bringing about a cease-fire or peace, he said, “You’ll have to call Mr. [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy because a year-and-a-half ago he signed a decree prohibiting any negotiations with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

The British defense ministry said Sunday in its daily intelligence update on Ukraine that Russia has “almost certainly been stockpiling” air-launched cruise missiles, or ALCMs, for use in its winter campaign against Ukraine.

The missiles were used Thursday, the ministry said, in a “major wave of strikes” aimed at Kyiv and central Ukraine.

While the British ministry says the December launch of the missiles was “probably” designed to degrade Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, initial reports indicate that Ukraine successfully intercepted most of them. One civilian was killed, officials said.

Hungarian blockade

Meanwhile, Hungarian truckers Monday plan to block Hungary’s main border crossing with Ukraine in protest of Ukrainian carriers bringing cheaper products into the European Union country and hurting local trade.

Truckers from Ukraine have been exempted from permits for crossing into the EU since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Haulers across eastern Europe have demanded restrictions on the number of Ukrainian trucks entering the bloc.

“We have asked the EU … to review its agreement signed with Ukraine and consider the interests of EU carriers, among them those [of] Hungary,” Tivadar Arvay, general secretary of the Hungarian Road Transport Association, told state news agency MTI.

Polish trucks at the Polish-Ukrainian border have been backed up for kilometers (miles) as Polish truckers block roads to three border crossings.

Ukraine has managed to bypass the Polish truckers’ blockade by transporting the first batch of buses to Poland by rail, Ukrainian state railways Ukrzaliznytsia said Sunday.

Ukrainian authorities say about 3,500 trucks were blocked on the Polish side of the Polish-Ukrainian border as of Sunday morning. So far, authorities have not been able to reach an agreement with the protesters, who, like their Hungarian counterparts, are also seeking to stop Ukrainian truckers from having permit-free access to the European Union.

Source : VOANews