Biden to meet Ukrainian leader as Russian offensive continues

7 June 2024, 11:14

Volodymyr Zelensky with his hand on his chest
Russia Ukraine War. Picture: PA

Ukraine is about to endure its hardest days of fighting since the early part of the Russian invasion, experts say.

US President Joe Biden is due to meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris as Kyiv’s army endures its hardest days of fighting since the early weeks of the war with Russia and prepares for what officials say could be a tough summer.

The United States is by far Kyiv’s biggest supplier of wartime support, and Ukraine is trying to fend off an intense Russian offensive in eastern areas of the country.

The push is focused on the Ukrainian border regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk, but Ukrainian officials say it could spread wider as Russia’s bigger army seeks to make its advantage tell.

The offensive is seeking to exploit Kyiv’s shortages of ammunition and troops along the roughly 620-mile front line.

That shortfall in weaponry came after US military aid was held up in congress for six months before Mr Biden in April signed into law a 61 billion dollar (£47 billion) military aid package for Ukraine.

Amid Russia’s most recent onslaught and with Ukraine’s army reeling, some Nato allies including the US said last week they would allow Ukraine to use weapons they deliver to Kyiv to carry out limited attacks inside Russia.

That step brought a furious response from the Kremlin, which warned that Europe’s biggest conflict since the Second World War could spin out of control.

Mr Biden and Nr Zelensky attended the 80th anniversary events of D-Day in Normandy, northern France, on Thursday, along with European leaders who have supported Kyiv’s efforts in the war.

The Ukranian leader shakes hands with veterans of D-Day
Mr Zelensky met Second World War veterans at the international ceremony at Omaha Beach (AP)

The US leader pledged “we will not walk away” from Ukraine, drawing a direct line from the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi domination to today’s war against Russian aggression.

Ukraine depicts its fight against the Kremlin’s forces as a clash between Western democratic freedom and Russian tyranny.

Russia says it is defending itself against a menacing eastward expansion of the Nato military alliance.

The US will send about 225 million dollars (£176 million) in military aid to Ukraine, US officials said on Thursday. The new package includes munitions for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, as well as mortar systems and an array of artillery rounds, officials said.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will provide Ukraine with its Mirage combat aircraft.

Mr Zelensky and the French defence minister stand to attention
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met French defence minister Sebastien Lecornu (Pool via AP)

Mr Macron has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine. He said in February that putting Western troops on the ground in Ukraine is not “ruled out”.

Mr Zelensky began a day of meetings in Paris on Friday with an official welcome ceremony at the golden-domed Invalides monument, site of Napoleon’s tomb.

During the day, Mr Zelensky is due to visit the Nexter arms manufacturer in Versailles, which makes the Caesar self-propelled howitzers that France, among other weapons, is providing for Kyiv’s forces.

He was also to make a speech to the National Assembly, which is the lower house of France’s parliament, and meet with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace.

Mr Zelensky’s foreign trips aim to keep Ukraine’s plight in the public eye, secure more military help for its fight against Russia’s invasion and lock in long-term Western support through bilateral alliances.

France and Ukraine in February signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement. Mr Zelensky has since signed similar bilateral agreements with many European countries.

By Press Association

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