Kremlin claims US in 'indirect war' with Russia after Zelenskyy trip

Moscow vows to take aim at Ukraine's US-supplied Patriot air-defence system

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy receives a gift from the US. AP
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Increased arms shipments to Ukraine and President Joe Biden’s high-profile VIP welcome for its leader showed the US was in an “indirect war” with Russia, the Kremlin said on Thursday.

The US and Ukraine were turning a deaf ear to Russian concerns, the Kremlin said after Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s historic trip to Washington, the first by the wartime leader.

The visit, months in the planning, came as the US announced it was sending Patriot surface-to-air missiles as part of its biggest commitment to Ukraine to date.

Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the announcement that the US would supply Ukraine with Patriots and suggested he wanted the war to end.

"Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war," he said. "We will strive for an end to this, and the sooner the better, of course.

"All armed conflicts end one way or another with some kind of negotiations on the diplomatic track.

"Sooner or later, any parties in a state of conflict sit down and make an agreement. The sooner this realisation comes to those who oppose us, the better. We have never given up on this."

But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said Russia had shown no real interest in ending the war in Ukraine.

"Fundamentally right now, Russia has shown no interest in meaningful diplomacy, in meaningfully engaging, to bring this war to an end," Mr Blinken said.

He said Russia could immediately end the war by withdrawing troops, but "in the absence of that, we have to see some meaningful evidence that Russia is prepared to actually negotiate a just and durable peace".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Biden and Mr Zelenskyy had failed to show they were ready to listen to Russia's concerns.

“Not a single word was heard warning Zelenskyy against the continued shelling of residential buildings in towns and villages in Donbas and there were no real calls for peace.

“This suggests that the United States is continuing its line of de facto fighting an indirect war with Russia to the last Ukrainian."

Far from hinting at any road map for an end to the conflict, Mr Biden said the US would support Ukraine for "as long as it takes" and Mr Zelenskyy said peace could come with "no compromises".

Russia would target the Patriot air-defence system that the US has pledged to send to Ukraine, Mr Peskov said.

Despite the US and other allies “constantly expanding the range and raising the technical level” of weapons supplied to Ukraine, the Russian military will not be deterred from achieving its goals, he said.

Mr Zelenskyy enjoyed a hero's welcome in Washington where Mr Biden committed nearly $1.8 billion in military supplies including, for the first time, the Patriot missile defence system.

It was the Ukrainian leader's first known trip outside his homeland since Russia invaded on February 24. He has appeared by video in parliament sessions around the world.

In a message posted on Telegram on Thursday, Mr Zelenskyy said he had met Polish President Andrzej Duda en route back to Ukraine.

"We summed up the year, which brought historic challenges due to a full-scale war," Mr Zelenskyy posted, along with footage of his arrival in Poland. "Also we discussed strategic plans for the future, bilateral relations and interactions at the international level in 2023."

During an October summit in Zagreb, Croatia, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed with Ukrainian parliamentary officials the prospect of Mr Zelenskyy addressing the US Congress.

Biden administration officials had also talked for months about a White House visit, hoping it would send an unmistakable signal of support.

Wearing his signature green combat fatigues, Mr Zelenskyy thanked Mr Biden, Congress and ordinary Americans for financing Ukraine's war effort.

“I came here to the United States to … thank the people of America, people who do so much for Ukraine. I am thankful for all of this,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

He went to Capitol Hill to address Congress, where he petitioned for increased support as Republicans prepare to take over the House of Representatives next year.

His speech was met largely with enthusiasm and was interrupted by standing ovations throughout.

Some Democratic members of Congress greeted Mr Zelenskyy by waving a large Ukrainian flag in the chamber. However, Republican scepticism over support for Ukraine was apparent on corners of the chamber floor.

Far-right representatives Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz refused to applaud and were seen laughing during Mr Zelenskyy's address.

On Thursday, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had visited army units fighting in Ukraine.

RIA cited the Defence Ministry as saying that Mr Shoigu had visited Russian units deployed to the “area of the special military operation”, using Moscow's term for the conflict in Ukraine.

Updated: December 22, 2022, 8:22 PM