The leader of Ukraine goes to the US for the first time for a trip abroad

President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Ukrainian soldiers during his visit to Bakhmut

Volodymyr Zelensky made an unannounced visit to the frontline city of Bakhmut on Tuesday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he is on his way to Washington where he will meet US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

It is his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion in February.

The White House also confirmed the trip, saying it will provide Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery, significantly boosting the country’s air defense capability.

Tuesday marked 300 days since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky will also address Congress and hold a number of bilateral meetings.

“Towards the US to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience and defense capabilities,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Zelensky regularly hosts foreign leaders in the capital, Kyiv, and has visited troops throughout Ukraine. He paid an unannounced visit to the frontline city of Bakhmut on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian president has also regularly spoken to world leaders by phone and video calls — often from his office in Kiev.

But an unannounced visit to a foreign country marks a first since the start of the war and also highlights the importance of Ukraine’s relations with the US, which has played a leading role in providing military support.

The new Patriot missile system promised by the US will enable Ukraine to protect its vital infrastructure from Russian attacks. Ukrainian officials have long advocated for more powerful air defense systems from the West.

Russia targets Ukraine’s energy sector, plunging millions of people into winter darkness with temperatures several degrees below freezing.

Chart showing largest aid donors for weapons and equipment to Ukraine including US $18.5 billion and Germany $2.3 billion and UK $1.9 billion.  Updated 16 Dec.

Chart showing largest aid donors for weapons and equipment to Ukraine including US $18.5 billion and Germany $2.3 billion and UK $1.9 billion. Updated 16 Dec.

In the briefing ahead of Mr Zelensky’s visit, the White House also confirmed a new package of nearly $2bn (£1.6bn) in security aid for Ukraine.

Work is also underway on a bill that would give Ukraine more than $40bn (£33bn) in additional funding towards 2023.

In terms of total spending on direct military support since the start of the conflict, the US has pledged far more than any other country.

President Zelensky has called for more money, saying monthly defense costs for Ukraine amounted to about $5bn (£4.1bn).

His visit to Washington comes a day after he made an unannounced visit to the frontline city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought a fierce, months-long battle.

He met with troops and presented awards to soldiers, the presidency said.

The visit was an important show of defiance – and a show of support for the Ukrainian armed forces that have been engaged in some of the fiercest battles in recent weeks.

Soldiers handed Mr Zelensky a Ukrainian flag with their name on it and asked him to present it to President Biden and the US Congress, in a moment caught on camera.

On the same day at the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded medals to figures involved in the Russian invasion.

Vladimir Putin awards Sergeant of the Russian National Guard, Lev Makeyev, the Order of Bravery at a ceremony at the Kremlin

Vladimir Putin awarded Sergeant Lev Makeyev of the National Guard the Order of Courage

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the US military estimates that at least 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured, along with some 40,000 civilian deaths.

The UN has registered 7.8 million people as refugees from Ukraine across Europe, including Russia. However, the figure does not include those forced to flee their homes but remain in Ukraine.

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