Putin is preparing for a major war speech in Ukraine after Biden walked the streets of Kiev

By Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder

KIEV (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to deliver a speech on Tuesday setting out goals for the second year of his invasion of Ukraine, a day after US President Joe Biden walked the streets of Kiev and vowed to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes.

After his surprise visit to Kiev, Biden flew to Poland and will deliver a speech Tuesday on how the United States has helped rally the world to support Ukraine and emphasize American support for NATO’s eastern flank.

China, which has remained publicly neutral despite signing a “no limits” friendship pact with Russia weeks before the invasion, said on Tuesday it was “deeply concerned” that the Ukraine conflict could spiral out of control.

Biden in his signature aviator glasses and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in green combat fatigues walked side by side to a golden-domed cathedral in Kiev on a bright winter Monday morning pierced by the sound of air raid sirens.

“When Putin launched his invasion almost a year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West divided. He thought he could outlive us. But he was dead wrong,” Biden said.

“The costs that Ukraine had to pay are extraordinarily high. The sacrifices were far too great. … We know we have difficult days, weeks and years ahead of us.”

Burned-out Russian tanks stand in front of the cathedral, symbolizing Moscow’s failed assault on the capital at the start of its invasion, which began on February 24. His forces quickly reached the city walls of Kiev – only to be repulsed by unexpectedly fierce resistance.

Since then, Russia’s war has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides, cities have been reduced to rubble and millions of refugees have fled. Russia says it has annexed nearly a fifth of Ukraine, while the West has pledged tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Kiev.

“This visit of the US President to Ukraine, the first in 15 years, is the most important visit in the entire history of Ukraine-US relations,” Zelenskyy said.

Biden traveled by overnight train from Poland to the Ukrainian capital, arriving at 8 a.m. Monday after about 10 hours, before returning there by the same route and departing just after 1 p.m. (1100 GMT), according to a White House pool report by a Wall Street Magazine reporter.

Biden arrived in Warsaw late Monday, where he is scheduled to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda the next day along with other leaders of countries on NATO’s eastern flank.

While Biden was in Kyiv, the State Department announced an additional $460 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, including $450 million in artillery ammunition, anti-tank systems and air defense radars, and $10 million for energy infrastructure.

Russia was notified ahead of Biden’s departure, officials in Washington and Moscow said, apparently to avoid the risk of an attack on Kiev while he was there.

“For the Kremlin, of course, this is seen as further evidence that the United States was betting on Russia’s strategic defeat in the war, and that the war itself has irrevocably become a war between Russia and the West,” said Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya .

Putin will update Russia’s political and military elite on the Ukraine conflict, the biggest confrontation with the West since the depths of the Cold War, in a speech to members of both houses of parliament on Tuesday.

He will also give his analysis of the international situation and outline his vision of Russia’s development after the West imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, the Kremlin said.

The speech is scheduled to begin at 0900 GMT in central Moscow.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc would approve more sanctions ahead of the Feb. 24 anniversary of the invasion, which Russia describes as a “special military operation” to defend Russian sovereignty.


China’s top diplomat Wang Yi called for a negotiated solution to the Ukraine war during a stopover in Hungary before a visit to Moscow on Monday. Ukraine says any diplomatic solution will require the withdrawal of Russian forces from its territory.

“China is deeply concerned that the Ukraine conflict will continue to escalate or even spiral out of control,” China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang said Tuesday in a speech at a foreign ministry forum.

“We are calling on certain countries to stop stoking the fire immediately,” he said in comments apparently aimed at the United States, adding that they “must stop hyping ‘today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan.'”

Russia is trying to gain full control of two eastern provinces that make up Ukraine’s industrial Donbass region. It has sent thousands of conscripts into Ukraine for a winter offensive, but has made little gains in attacks in frozen trenches along the Eastern Front in recent weeks.

Kyiv and the West see it as a push to bring victories to Putin, a year after he instigated Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

Ukraine is expecting large shipments of western weapons in the coming months, which will help it carry out a planned counter-offensive. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties repelling attacking Russian forces.

(Reporting by Reuters reporters worldwide; Writing by Peter Graff, Arshad Mohammed, Simon Lewis and Michael Perry; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


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