President Joe Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Tuesday.
Biden will meet NATO and European leaders at a summit in Brussels on March 24. He will also attend a scheduled European Union summit the same day for discussions on further sanctions on Russia and humanitarian efforts for Ukraine.
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“While he’s there, his goal is to meet in person, face to face, with his European counterparts and talk about, assess where we are at this point in the conflict in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We’ve been incredibly aligned to date,” Psaki said.
“That doesn’t happen by accident. The president is a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy. So it’s an opportunity to do exactly that.”
The US has repeatedly called Russia’s attack on Ukraine “unprovoked and unjustified”.
It poses a potential threat to NATO nations including Ukraine’s neighbours Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. More than three million Ukrainian refugees have fled the country into neighbouring states since the war began on February 24, according to the United Nations.
Biden would use the visit to “reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies”, Psaki said.
The US president has brought together Europe, Canada and other allies to issue wide-ranging sanctions on Russia’s oil, gas, financial and tech sectors, wealthy Russian oligarchs and political and military officials from both Russia and Belarus, which has supported the invasion.
Canda and the US announced more sanctioned individuals and entities on Tuesday.
Biden also signed US government funding legislation on Tuesday that includes an “historic” $13.6bn in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine added by Congress last week.
The US has been providing anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. Biden said in remarks at the bill signing, the US will be doing more and he would outline details of the plan on Wednesday.
“With this new security funding, and the drawdown authorities in this bill, we’re moving urgently to further augment the support the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their country,” Biden said.
“I’ll have much more to say about this tomorrow [Wednesday] about exactly what we’re doing in Ukraine,” he said.
Biden said the US has provided $293m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and neighbouring countries in the past few weeks and is airlifting tonnes of emergency supplies to staging centres in the region.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, is set to give an address on Wednesday to the US Congress in which he is expected to call again for a NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Ukraine. The Pentagon and Biden administration officials so far have ruled out such a measure saying it could be seen by Russia as a military escalation.
Zelenskyy has conducted a campaign of outreach to western capitals, pleading for more military assistance to stop the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.
He told Canada’s parliament on Tuesday, Ukraine has suffered 20 days of “full-scale aggression” by Russia that has killed at least 97 children so far.
“Can you imagine when you call your [allies], and you ask, ‘please close the sky, close the airspace, please stop the bombings, how many more cruise missiles have to fall on our cities until you make this happen?’ And in return, they express their deep concerns about the situation,” said Zelenskyy, who received multiple standing ovations from Canadian lawmakers.
“Please understand how important it is for us to close our airspace from Russian missiles and Russian aircraft. I hope you can understand.”
Russian forces on Tuesday shelled an apartment block in the Ukrainian capital city of Kiyv as the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia arrived to meet Zelenskyy. Five people were killed and the city’s mayor imposed a 35-hour curfew in the Kiyv.
In Mariupol, a caravan of about 2,000 cars was allowed to leave the besieged port city on Ukraine’s southeast coast as supplies of food and water ran short for some 400,000 people trapped in the city. Aid supplies have been blocked from entering the city.