Moscow has stated that Ukraine’s purchase of Patriot missiles from the United States, announced during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington, will not help resolve the conflict or prevent Russia from achieving its goals.
Although the Patriot air defense system is widely regarded as advanced, President Vladimir Putin dismissed it as “pretty old” and told reporters on Thursday that Russia would find a way to counter it. At the same time, he said that Russia wanted an end to the war in Ukraine and that this would inevitably include a diplomatic solution.
“Our goal is not to set off the flywheel of military conflicts, but, on the contrary, to end this war,” Putin told reporters. “We will work to put an end to this, and the sooner the better, of course.”
These comments were quickly met with skepticism in the USA. White House spokesman John Kirby said Putin had “shown absolutely no sign that he is prepared to negotiate an end to the war,” which began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“Quite the opposite,” Kirby told reporters during an online briefing. “Everything he [Putin] does on the ground and in the air testifies to a man who wants to continue using violence against the Ukrainian people [and] escalate the war.”
Russia has insisted that it is open to negotiations, but Ukraine and its allies suspect a ploy to buy time after a series of defeats and retreats on the Russian battlefield that have turned the ten-month war in Kiev’s favor.
Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine buoyed by the support shown by President Joe Biden on his trip to Washington on Wednesday, his first known trip abroad since Russia invaded its neighbors.
“We come back from Washington with good results. With something that’s really going to help,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.
CNN Breaking News Salam Khoder, reporting from Moscow, said that Russia had “clearly stated” that any aid provided by the US to Ukraine — “Patriot systems or otherwise” — would be legitimate targets.
“In addition, the personnel that could be deployed with such systems to train or operate these systems would also be a target for the Russian Army,” said Khoder.
Khoder quoted Russian Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov as warning that the US is “actively interfering in this conflict by sending and delivering more weapons to Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there was no sign of willingness to hold peace talks during Zelensky’s visit to Washington, proving that the US was waging a proxy war with Russia “down to the last Ukrainian.”
“This is not conducive to a quick solution, quite the opposite,” Peskov said of the Patriot system announcement. “And that cannot prevent the Russian Federation from achieving its objectives during the special military operation,” which is the Russian term for a war in which tens of thousands of people were killed.
Zelenskyy told Congress on Wednesday that US aid to his country was an investment in democracy. He invoked battles against the Nazis in World War II to push for more support against the Russian invasion.
Congress moved closer on Thursday to approving an additional $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic aid, which is part of a wider spending bill by the US government. This would be in addition to the approximately 50 billion US dollars that have already been transferred to Ukraine this year.
The Biden administration announced an additional $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including the Patriot system, on Wednesday as Zelenskyy began his visit.
Journalist and author Owen Matthews said the main task of the Ukrainian presidency is to ensure that the ongoing Russian invasion remains “at the center of the American agenda.”
“Putin is counting on the USA and the West losing interest in Ukraine due to exhaustion and growing political opposition. The best strategy the Russians can adopt is to hope that Ukraine’s western allies give up at some point,” Matthews, who focuses on Russian matters, told CNN Breaking News.
“It is important that Zelenskyy maintains this support and he has won,” he added.
Battle of Bakhmut
Meanwhile, Gerasimov said the front line in Ukraine was stable and Moscow’s armed forces were focused on gaining control of the eastern Donetsk region, where the war-torn city of Bakhmut has become an epicenter of fighting.
He said Russian troops are “focused on completing the liberation” of Donetsk, one of four regions that Moscow says it has annexed — even though it never fully controlled them.
Gerasimov also said that Russia had used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine for the first time, including Kinzhal missiles — part of an arsenal that Putin has described as “invincible.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited fighting army units in Ukraine, state news agency RIA reported on Thursday, citing the ministry. It wasn’t said where.