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Russia says it will target US Patriot system in Ukraine

* US announces new $1.85 billion military package * Zelenskiy tells US its aid is investment in democracy
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the US Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. -- AFP
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the US Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. -- AFP

WASHINGTON/KYIV: US supplies of advanced Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, announced during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's visit to Washington, will not help settle the conflict or prevent Russia from achieving its goals, Moscow said on Thursday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there had been no signs of readiness for peace talks during Zelenskiy's visit, proving that the United States was fighting a proxy war with Russia "to the last Ukrainian".

"This is not conducive to a speedy settlement, quite the contrary," Peskov said of the Patriot system. "And this cannot prevent the Russian Federation from achieving its goals during the special military operation", using Russia's term for a war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Zelenskiy told Congress on Wednesday that US aid to his country was an investment in democracy as he invoked battles against the Nazis in World War Two to press for more assistance in the war against Russia.

Zelenskiy said the Patriot system was an important step in creating an air shield.

"This is the only way that we can deprive the terrorist state of its main instrument of terror - the possibility to hit our cities, our energy," Zelenskiy told a White House news conference, standing next to President Joe Biden.

Zelenskiy's comments came as Republicans - some of whom have voiced increasing scepticism about sending so much aid to Ukraine - are set to take control of the US House of Representatives from Democrats on January 3.

Congress is on the verge of approving an additional $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic assistance, on top of some $50 billion already sent to Ukraine this year as Europe's biggest land conflict since World War Two drags on.

The United States announced another $1.85 billion in military aid for Ukraine, including the Patriot system.

"We would like to get more Patriots ... we are in war," Zelenskiy told reporters.

Russia says it launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24 to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia's actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.


White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Washington was seeing no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to engage in peacemaking.

Zelenskiy's aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the United States had "finally pinpointed the baseline" in the conflict.

"1. Russia must lose. 2. No 'territory in exchange for pseudo/world' compromises. 3. Ukraine will receive all necessary military aid. As much as possible. 4. No one cares about Russia's 'talk to us' hysteria...," he wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine has come under repeated Russian strikes targeting its energy infrastructure in recent weeks, leaving millions without power or running water in the dead of winter.

Zelenskiy congratulated electrical workers for working round the clock, trying to keep the lights on as they marked Power Engineers' Day on Thursday, a day after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

"Even if the enemy can temporarily leave us without light, it will still never succeed in leaving us without the desire to make things right, to mend and restore to normal," he said on Telegram. "...Together we will overcome any darkness."

TASS news agency earlier cited Russia's US ambassador as saying that Zelenskiy's visit to the United States confirmed that Washington's statements about not wanting a conflict with Russia were empty words.

US actions were leading to an escalation, the consequences of which were impossible to imagine, TASS cited Anatoly Antonov as saying.

Moscow proclaimed it had annexed four provinces of Ukraine - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson - after holding so-called referendums in September that were rejected as bogus by Kyiv and the West.

Russian forces control almost all of Luhansk, but only around 60% of Donetsk, both in the east. Since August, they have been bogged down in a costly and extended fight for Bakhmut, a Donetsk region industrial town with a pre-war population of around 70,000.

Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said on Thursday that the frontline in Ukraine was stable, and that Russia's forces had concentrated on "completing the liberation of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic". -- Reuters

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