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Zelensky says Putin is “waiting for November” and calls for immediate help during his stay in Washington for the NATO summit

Zelensky says Putin is “waiting for November” and calls for immediate help during his stay in Washington for the NATO summit



CNN

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday called on international leaders to provide immediate assistance to his war-torn country and “not wait until November or any other month.”

Zelensky said that “everyone is waiting for November,” including Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the 2024 US presidential election and the threat of a second Donald Trump presidency remain top of mind for international leaders gathered in Washington DC for a key NATO summit.

“It is time to step out of the shadows, make strong decisions, act and not wait for November or any other month. To this end, we must be strong and uncompromising as a whole,” Zelensky said. “And above all, America and above all the leaders of America and the President of the United States as leaders of the free world must be uncompromising when it comes to defending democracy. Uncompromising towards Putin and his country. Uncompromising towards any possible terror.”

Zelensky’s remarks at the Ronald Reagan Institute in Washington came on the sidelines of the summit, where long-term support for Ukraine in the war against Russia was high on the agenda. In the coming days, the Ukrainian president will seek to consolidate and strengthen allies’ support for his country and meet with President Joe Biden.

Zelensky called on America to give Ukraine and other allies bordering Russia more “answers,” saying: “We have proven more than once that the more we have, the harder it is for Putin to wage war. He still believes that war could pay off. He still believes that humiliating America could pay off.”

Ukraine, he said, “can significantly limit Russian actions in southern Ukraine and expel the occupiers from there if the American leadership supports us with the necessary capabilities to strike deep against the Russian military and Russian logistics in our Ukrainian Crimea.”

The US has announced “significant” announcements on Ukraine for the three-day world summit. Biden opened the summit earlier in the evening with the announcement that the country would be equipped with new air defense systems.

In the run-up to the summit, NATO members made it clear that Ukraine was their focus. “Priority one, two and three is Ukraine,” said a European diplomat.

But questions remain over whether these expressions of support will be enough as the war drags on and there is little sign of a quick diplomatic or military victory for Kyiv. Many participants are concerned about the future of NATO should Trump win the presidential election in November. Biden’s disastrous debate performance late last month did nothing to calm them.

“I hope that if the American people vote for President Trump, his Ukraine policy will not change,” Zelensky said in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier on Tuesday night. He added that he did not know the former president “very well” but that the two had “good meetings” during the Trump administration.

Zelensky landed in the US capital on Monday evening, just as deadly Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine were taking place earlier that day. The barrage of missiles hit buildings across the country, including Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, killing more than three dozen people.

Referring to claims by Russian officials that the Kremlin was not behind the attack, Zelensky said: “Russia always knows where its missiles will hit. Always.”

On Tuesday evening, the United States and some of its NATO allies announced that they would supply Ukraine with additional Patriot batteries and additional systems to bolster Kyiv’s air defenses against the ongoing Russian air attack.

The US, Germany and Romania will each supply their own Patriot battery, while the Netherlands will work with other countries to facilitate an additional Patriot battery, a joint statement said. Italy, meanwhile, will also supply a SAMP-T long-range air defense system.

“This is another important step following the US decision to give priority to Ukraine in the supply of anti-aircraft missiles,” Zelensky wrote on X after the announcement. “I am grateful to President Biden for his leadership and to all partner countries for their commitment to equip us with air defense capabilities as soon as possible.”

“Russia’s air terror against Ukrainians, including yesterday’s brutal attack on the children’s hospital, must be met with unity and strength, with decisive and courageous decisions. And that is exactly what such decisions ensure,” he wrote.

Officials said the timing of Moscow’s attack – a day before the summit began – was calculated. It was “a greeting from Putin to all NATO countries … mocking us for trying to follow red lines,” said Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament.

They also said the attack underscored the need for continued military support for Ukraine – and the ability to use those weapons against targets deep inside Russian territory.

“This attack, this attack on Ukraine’s future – because children are our future – must not go unanswered,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday in a speech alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “I look forward to our discussion on how we can further strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities.”

“We want the lifting of any restrictions on the weapons that Ukraine receives,” Stefanchuk said at an event in Washington on Monday.

The Biden administration recently changed its policy to allow the use of U.S. weapons in attacks on Russian territory, where Russian forces are conducting cross-border attacks into Ukraine. However, Ukrainian officials want to expand this policy further and allow attacks on Russian military targets anywhere on Russian territory.

Stefanchuk called on Monday for a “stable and predictable supply of these weapons” and ammunition, as well as the ability to “effectively counter threats from the air” – by which he meant F-16 fighter jets.

“We don’t want to wait for another sanctions package like an iPhone package,” he said, noting that they only need one type of sanctions: sanctions that “make Russia feel the economic consequences of this war.”

Upon his arrival in the US capital, Zelensky said that Kyiv would push for “decisive action” by the US and Europe at the summit.

Ukraine also wants clear progress towards NATO membership.

The issue had led to a diplomatic dispute in the run-up to the summit in Vilnius last year. Zelensky fumed that it was “unprecedented and absurd” that “no time frame had been set for either the invitation or for Ukraine’s membership in NATO.”

This year, according to government officials, there was significantly more communication with the Ukrainians in the run-up to the summit. The European diplomat said there had been “deep and open discussions” with Ukrainian politicians. Presidential adviser Andriy Yermak was in Washington last week, among other things to work on the agreements for the summit.

As CNN reported on Monday, Ukraine’s path to NATO was described as “irreversible” in a draft of the alliance’s joint communiqué, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Still, some are calling for a stronger engagement with Ukraine. One senior European diplomat quipped that “this irreversibility is certainly reversible.”

A senior Biden administration official said Friday that what they have outlined “is quite extensive in terms of the bridge to membership and the benefits that NATO will provide for Ukraine.”

“We’re not talking about some plan of how they get from here to there. We’re talking about setting up a complete command in Wiesbaden and we’re going to look at how we handle the various things that I mentioned earlier – training, coordination, equipment, coordination, logistics, force development. This is a very serious attempt to put Ukraine, as I said earlier, in a position where it’s ready to assume its roles and responsibilities within the alliance from day one,” the official said.

“I’ll let the Ukrainians speak for themselves, but I think they understand the value of what NATO will do for this,” they said.

This headline and story have been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Mariya Knight, Hira Humayun, Oren Liebermann, Kayla Tausche, Maria Kostenko and Radina Gigova contributed to this report.