The Kremlin has accused the United States of fighting a proxy war against Russia after Washington boosted military support for Ukraine and hosted President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a historic visit.
Zelenskyy enjoyed a hero’s welcome on his lightning trip to Washington on Wednesday, with his US counterpart Joe Biden committing to providing Kyiv with $1.8bn-worth of military equipment, including the highly-sought after Patriot missile defence system.
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But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that the latest US support package – which comes on top of some $50bn already sent to Ukraine this year as Europe’s biggest land conflict since World War II drags on – would not help end the more than 300-day-long conflict.
“This is not conducive to a speedy settlement, quite the contrary. And this cannot prevent the Russian Federation from achieving its goals during the special military operation,” Peskov said, using Moscow’s own term for its offensive.
Peskov added that there had been no calls for peace or signs of willingness to “listen to Russia’s concerns” during Zelenskyy’s visit, proving that the US was intent on fighting a proxy war with Russia “to the last Ukrainian”.
His remarks came as Russian news agencies reported that defence minister Sergei Shoigu had visited army units fighting in Ukraine. The reports did not specify where the visit took place.
Advanced air defence system
Zelenskyy’s visit marked his first overseas trip since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Before addressing a joint meeting of Congress, the Ukrainian leader held a meeting with Biden at the White House, during which the US president pledged to deliver the Patriot system to Kyiv.
Ukraine had previously appealed for the equipment, arguing that it would help bolster its air defences amid continued Russian missile attacks on critical infrastructure and cities across the country which have left millions of people without electricity or running water during a freezing winter.
The Patriot is one of the most advanced US air defence systems, capable of intercepting threats, such as aircraft and ballistic missiles.
Ukrainian troops will learn how to use it in Germany, and it will be several months before they can deploy it on the battlefield.
Moscow has said that once deployed, the Patriot system will be a legitimate target for Russian bombardment.
Al Jazeera’s Salam Khoder, reporting from Moscow, said it was clear that Russia did not expect there to be “any positive outcomes” from the Ukrainian leader’s trip to the US.
Russia to bolster its armed forces
In a bid to boost Russia’s faltering invasion, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday gave his backing to a plan to boost the size of the country’s armed forces by more than 30 percent to 1.5 million combat personnel.
Addressing an end-of-year meeting of top defence chiefs, Putin said Russian forces would be equipped with modern weapons in order to ensure they delivered on all of Moscow’s objectives – namely the seizure of the four partly-occupied Ukrainian regions which Moscow unilaterally moved to annex in September.
He added there were no financial limits on what the government would provide in terms of equipment and hardware, but said the army had to learn from and fix the problems it had experienced so far on the battlefield.
In October, Russian forces drew back in Kherson, which is one of the regions Moscow is intent on fully capturing along with Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia, and dug in elsewhere amid a failure to gain ground.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, the largest in Europe since World War II, has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes and reduced vast swathes of the country to rubble.