December 12, 2023 - Zelensky meets with Biden and lawmakers in push for more Ukraine aid

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 1:31 p.m. ET, December 13, 2023
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5:59 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Biden says US will support Ukraine "as long as we can," in apparent shift from previous language

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

US President Joe Biden, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a joint news conference at the White House on Tuesday.
US President Joe Biden, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a joint news conference at the White House on Tuesday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden has long vowed American support for Ukraine will persist “as long as it takes.”

But on Tuesday, Biden appeared to revise that commitment, saying in a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the US would “continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can.”

It was a shift that reflected the major headwinds in approving new American assistance to Ukraine. After Zelensky’s meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it appeared no clearer that new aid would be forthcoming before the end of the year.

Opening his news conference, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “banking on the United States failing to deliver” new aid, and said American divisions on providing new aid was playing into Russia’s hands. 

“We must, we must, we must prove him wrong,” Biden said.

He noted the host of a Russian state television program had praised Republicans for blocking the passage of new Ukraine aid last week.

“If you’re being celebrated by Russian propagandists, it might be time to rethink what you're doing,” Biden said. 

Biden later defined US expectations for Ukraine as the war approaches the end of its second year. 

“We want to see Ukraine win the war,” Biden said. “Winning means Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation. And it can afford to defend itself today and deter further aggression. That's our objective.”

CNN's Betsy Klein contributed reporting to this post.

5:45 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Zelensky: Biden and I discussed how to increase Ukraine's strength going into 2024

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the news conference Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the news conference Tuesday. Evan Vucci/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky outlined his country's goals going into 2024 during remarks from the White House Tuesday.

"Today, President Biden and I discussed how to increase our strengths" for next year, he said, and noted three elements.

First, Zelensky noted air defense and efforts to destroy Russian logistics on Ukraine's land. "We aim to win the air battle, crushing Russian air dominance," he said, adding that "who controls the skies controls the war's duration."

Second, Zelensky said that he met with an American defense company. He said he received advice on how to make Ukraine's defense industry work faster and more effectively. "Together, Ukraine and America can transform democracy's arsenal," he said.

Third, Zelensky said he informed Biden that Ukraine has "fulfilled all the recommendations from the European Commission" in preparation to negotiate his country's ascension to the European Union.

"Everything we talked about today will help us in the year 2024," Zelensky said.

5:21 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Zelensky gives message of strength and thanks US for partnership in war against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during Tuesday's news conference at the White House.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during Tuesday's news conference at the White House. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a thankful message of unity at a joint news conference Tuesday with United States President Joe Biden.

The Ukrainian president said he was glad to have the invitation to come to Washington, DC, to convey to Biden what his country has achieved in its fight against Russia.

"We've already made significant progress. We've shown that our partnership is stronger than any Russian hostility," Zelensky said, adding that Ukraine has freed 50% of the territories Russia occupied.

He pointed out that Ukrainian soldiers have been "defending freedom" for nearly two years and “thanks to Ukraine’s success in defense, other European nations are safe from the Russian aggression unlike in the past."

“When freedom is strong in one country, it is strong everywhere," Zelensky said.

"We stand firm, no matter what Putin tries. He hasn't won any victory," the Ukrainian president added.

5:18 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Biden: Putin is banking on the US failing to deliver aid to Ukraine

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Joe Biden speaks during Tuesday's joint news conference.
President Joe Biden speaks during Tuesday's joint news conference. Andrew Harnik/AP

President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is counting on the US to fail to provide support to Ukraine during remarks at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House Tuesday.

"We'll continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can; including $200 million I just approved today" in weapons and military aid, Biden said, but added that supplemental funding is needed to continue US support.

"Without supplemental funding, we're rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond in the urgent operational demands that it has. Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine. We must, we must, we must, prove him wrong," Biden said, urging the US Congress to pass funding to assist Ukraine.

5:39 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

NOW: Biden and Zelensky hold joint news conference on Ukraine aid

From CNN staff

United States President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are holding a joint news conference.

The Ukrainian president is in Washington, DC, on Tuesday. He held meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and with Biden at the White House.

Zelensky is advocating for more US funding for Ukraine as it fights its war against Russia, though Congress appears to be no closer to a deal that would provide additional aid.

This is Zelensky’s third trip to Washington since the war began.

5:16 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Zelensky says his goal is to "take away Russian superiority" and disrupt its operations in 2024

From CNN's Mariya Knight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to reporters while meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House Oval Office on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks to reporters while meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House Oval Office on Tuesday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During a meeting US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the goal is to “take away Russian superiority and disrupt its offensive operations” in 2024.

Zelensky said that another aim of his is “to boost the development of the arsenals of democracy” of Ukraine with the help of American weapons. He said he would like to discuss speeding up the weapon co-production with his American counterpart. 

“Thanks to all the workers, engineers, managers who build the strength of American weapons helping Ukraine boost the development of arsenals of democracy. President Biden agreed, and we spoke about it in September to join weapon co-production, it is very important for us,” Zelensky said during the meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office.

The Ukrainian president also noted that his forces are “advancing” on the battlefield and highlighted Ukraine’s success in the Black Sea.

"We’ve successfully defeated Russia in the Black Sea and Russia is hiding its... the remains of its fleet in remote bays. Meanwhile, Ukraine has set up an export corridor in the Black Sea that is really boosting our economy and food security,” he said, adding that Ukraine’s economic growth is “almost at 5%” at the moment. 

Zelensky said his country is "gradually becoming less dependent on aid, and we are moving in the right direction." He said he wanted to discuss with Biden how to continue to strengthen Ukrainian capabilities "especially enhancing our air defense and ability to destroy Russia’s logistics."

4:32 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Biden tells Congress failure to pass Ukraine-Israel aid package would give Putin "the greatest Christmas gift"

From CNN's Samantha Waldenberg

US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the White House Oval Office on Tuesday.
US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the White House Oval Office on Tuesday. Evan Vucci/AP

US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that if Congress fails to pass Ukraine-Israel aid package it would give Russian President Vladimir Putin “the greatest Christmas gift.”

“Congress needs to pass supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess, before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him,” Biden said in the Oval Office alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.  

The president also announced an additional $200 million in drawdown funds for Ukraine. Zelensky is meeting with Biden after he met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate for more aid as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.

This is Zelensky’s third trip to Washington since the war began, he visited in September and met at that time with Biden in the Oval Office as well. Biden told Zelensky “it’s great to be at your side once again, we’re going to stay on your side.”

1:51 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Zelensky arrives at the White House

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives at the White House on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives at the White House on Tuesday. Andrew Harnik/AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived at the White House to meet President Joe Biden to push for more funding to Ukraine as Russia continues its invasion.

Earlier today, he met US lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

12:58 p.m. ET, December 12, 2023

Russia has lost nearly 90% of troops it had prior to Ukraine invasion, according to US intelligence assessment

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis

Soldiers march in Moscow during a Victory Day military parade in May.
Soldiers march in Moscow during a Victory Day military parade in May. VCG/Getty Images

Russia has lost a staggering 87 percent of the total number of active-duty ground troops it had prior to launching its invasion of Ukraine and two-thirds of its pre-invasion tanks, a source familiar with a declassified US intelligence assessment provided to Congress told CNN.

Still, despite heavy losses of men and equipment, Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to push forward as the war approaches its two-year anniversary early next year, and US officials are warning that Ukraine remains deeply vulnerable. A highly anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive stagnated through the fall, and US officials believe that Kyiv is unlikely to make any major gains over the coming months.

The assessment, sent to Capitol Hill on Monday, comes as some Republicans have balked at the US providing additional funding for Ukraine and the Biden administration has launched a full-court press to try to get supplemental funding through Congress.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Washington on Tuesday, meeting with US lawmakers and President Joe Biden in desperate bid to secure the military and economic aid he says is vital to Ukraine’s ability to maintain the fight against Russia.

Russia has been able to keep its war effort going despite the heavy losses by relaxing recruitment standards and dipping into Soviet-era stockpiles of older equipment. Still, the assessment found that the war has “sharply set back 15 years of Russian effort to modernize its ground force.”

Of the 360,000 troops that entered Ukraine, including contract and conscript personnel, Russia has lost 315,000 on the battlefield, according to the assessment. 2,200 of 3,500 tanks have been lost, according to the assessment. 4,400 of 13,600 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers have also been destroyed, a 32 percent loss rate.

“As of late November, Russia lost over a quarter of its pre-invasion stockpiles of ground forces equipment,” the assessment reads. “This has reduced the complexity and scale of Russian offensive operations, which have failed to make major gains in Ukraine since early 2022.”

CNN has reached out to the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment.

Read more about the assessment.