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Zelenskiy and Biden's 'deeply personal' meeting cemented their bond, Ukraine top adviser says

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by Volodymyr Zelensky visit to the White House confirmed that Ukraine and the United States are “strategic partners” for the first time in history, the Ukrainian leader’s top adviser said in an interview upon his return home.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, told the Guardian that Wednesday’s trip cemented Zelenskiy’s bond with the US president, Joe Biden — and with high-ranking U.S. Republicans, despite Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s “dirty” comments.

The summit and press conference between the two leaders this week demonstrated “how President Biden personally feels about anything related to Ukraine,” Yermak said, and that the United States was “a true leader of the free world and of democracy”.

Yermak’s emphasis on the personal ties forged by the surprise visit, Zelenskiy’s first time outside Ukraine since the start of the war, comes despite the failure to immediately obtain US Abrams tanks, F-16 fighter jets and long-range army tactics. ATACMS missile system that Ukraine said must be defeated Russia.

But it demonstrates the conviction in kyiv that Ukraine must emphasize the moral dimension of its fight against the invading Russian army and its faith in its relationship with the United States to increasingly unblock the badly needed military aid as the war heads towards its first anniversary in February.

It is [the] first time in history that Ukraine and [the] The United States is close as a strategic partner. There is a very warm, very friendly relationship, [a] personal relationship between [the] two presidents,” said Yermak, who was alongside Zelenskiy on the trip.

In addition to the meeting with Biden, Yermak pointed to meetings Zelenskiy has had with U.S. congressional leaders, including those with senior Republicans Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, and Kevin McCarthy, the leading presidential candidate. become Speaker of the House next month.

The Ukrainian contrasted this with the attitude of Carlson, who said Zelenskiy looked like ‘a manager of a strip club’ who should have been kicked out of Congress for wearing his khaki fatigues when he walked out. is addressed to the legislators of the country.

Carlson “was saying dirty things,” Yermak said, but “he’s not the voice of the Republican Party, he’s not the voice of [the] The GOP and I can draw this conclusion after meeting with representatives of [the] GOP in Congress”.

Biden pledges to support Ukraine ‘as long as it takes’ – video

During the visit, Biden announced $1.85bn (£1.54bn) in new military assistance to Ukraine, including the delivery of a single Patriot missile defense system, a request for long-serving kyiv to help it better defend its cities and power grid, now prone to repeated blackouts after sustained Russian bombardment.

Now back in Kyiv, speaking via video call, Yermak said he thought it would help unlock more military support. “I hope we receive everything we need and this visit will send a very strong signal to all allies that our United States believes in our victory,” the presidential aide said.

Kyiv has claimed a mix of American and European weapons, such as German-made Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles, as it tries to find a way to break through Russian front lines during the new Year.

The leaders of the free world. A historic meeting of the Presidents of 🇺🇦 and the 🇺🇸 – @ZelenskyyUa and @POTUS.

A great victory is ahead. 💪 pic.twitter.com/k6IIN5l9rP

— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) December 21, 2022


Ermak declined to say when or where Ukraine might launch its next counterattack, but he predicted 2023 would be a watershed moment in the war. “We will do everything we can to regain our territory. I understand that it will be hard and difficult work. Our great and brave nation will continue to fight. I am sure that next year will really be a year of victory.

Asked if the victory included the recapture of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, he replied, “Absolutely. The US administration has not explicitly backed Zelenskiy’s wish to reclaim the peninsula – a mission that most analysts say would be difficult for the Ukrainian military.

The Chief of Staff said he didn’t want to speculate on that. Vladimir Putin’s trip this week to meet Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, in the capital, Minsk. A recent buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine has fueled fears that Putin plans to attack again from the north, in another attempt to seize Kyiv, similar to Russia’s doomed advance in February.

“We have a danger along the whole border,” Yermak said, adding, “I don’t want to know what’s going on in Putin’s head.” He said Kyiv had received intelligence from its partners and frontline soldiers, and was ready for “any kind of provocation”.

The United States also accused North Korea on Friday of providing “an initial arms shipment” of missiles and rockets to the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which is fighting on behalf of the Kremlin in eastern Donbass. . North Korea and Wagner denied the report.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of the President of Ukraine
Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of the President of Ukraine: “There are terrible tragedies: we are losing the best. But we will definitely win. Photography: Future Publishing/Getty Images

When asked how Zelenskiy was doing as the first anniversary of the Moscow invasion approached, Yermak replied: “He is fine.” He added: “Of course he works a lot. It’s normal for him. He worked all his life. He is a responsible person and deeply involved in everything: weapons, military strategy, energy and economic issues. He is the best choice of the Ukrainian people.

A former film producer and lawyer, Yermak joined the presidential administration in 2019 after Zelenskiy’s landslide election victory. At the beginning of the following year, he became chief of staff. He called his boss “the best president” in “the current history of Ukraine”.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion, he said, propelled Zelenskiy to an extraordinary level of global recognition: “Now Ukraine is the leader of the free world and the leader of our region. We have a strong army. We liberate our territory and fight the so-called second largest army on the planet.

Ermak concluded: “There are terrible tragedies: we are losing the best. But we will definitely win.

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