'Putin was dead wrong': Joe Biden makes $500m weapons pledge for Ukraine in surprise trip to Kyiv

20 February 2023, 12:07 | Updated: 21 February 2023, 08:21

Joe Biden has met President Zelenskky in a surprise visit to Kyiv
Joe Biden has met President Zelenskky in a surprise visit to Kyiv. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

US President Joe Biden has pledged to send more weapons to Ukraine in a surprise trip to the country's capital almost one year after Russia's invasion.

It is Mr Biden's first trip to Ukraine since the start of the war and comes just a matter of days before the US President is scheduled to meet with Poland's President Andrzej Duda.

A statement released by the White House on behalf of Mr Biden said the purpose of the visit was to "reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine's democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity".

Mr Biden made a $500m weapons pledge - with the US understood to be providing more rockets for HIMARS systems, and more anti-armour weapons to take out Russian tanks.

President Biden and President Zelenskyy meet in Kyiv for the first time since Russia's invasion
President Biden and President Zelenskyy meet in Kyiv for the first time since Russia's invasion. Picture: Getty
It's the first time Mr Biden has visited Ukraine since the war began
It's the first time Mr Biden has visited Ukraine since the war began. Picture: Getty

Mr Biden continued: "When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong."

The President added that Ukraine will receive more "critical equipment" from the US, including artillery ammunition, air surveillance radars and anti-armour systems.

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In a joint address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy labelled Mr Biden's visit as "the most important visit of the whole history of US-Ukraine relations".

"I know there will be a very significant package of support to Ukraine...serving a clear signal that Russia's aggression has no chance," Zelenskyy said.

President Biden and President Zelesnkyy in joint televised speech to Ukraine
President Biden and President Zelesnkyy in joint televised speech to Ukraine. Picture: Getty

"Ukraine is grateful to you, Mr President" he added.

Mr Biden used his address to reaffirm the United States' stance against Russia's invasion, pointing out that Vladimir Putin has "just been plain wrong".

The president said: "Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided... he’s counting on us not sticking together.

"He was counting on the inability to keep Nato united. He was counting on us not to be able to bring in others to the side of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska
President Joe Biden with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska. Picture: Getty

"He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now. He’s just been plain wrong."

It comes after Mr Zekenskyy visited a number of European countries to appeal to leaders to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, which he described as "wings for freedom" in an address to the UK Parliament earlier this month.

After Mr Zelenskyy's address, it emerged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to investigate what jets the UK could potentially give to Ukraine.

President Zelensky made a surprise visit to the UK earlier this month
President Zelensky made a surprise visit to the UK earlier this month. Picture: Getty

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said it was a "long-term solution" and that "short-term capability" is what Kyiv needs most at the moment, a sentiment which has been echoed by the US.

President Zelenskyy's hopes for NATO members' jets to help fight back the Russian invasion would create "serious problems" for Poland, the nation's leader said in a backward step for Ukraine.

Warsaw leader Andrzej Duda told Laura Kuenssberg that handing the warring nation F-16 aircraft is a "very serious" decision that will be "not easy" to take.

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