Ukraine reports Russian rocket attack near Kyiv

US President Joe Biden will meet with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky on Thursday to update him on US arms shipments and congratulate him on Ukraine’s Independence Day, according to the White House.

John Kirby, communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the United States will continue to “rally the free world” and “galvanize allies and partners” to support Ukraine as the Russian invasion reaches the six months.

He said the phone call between Biden and Zelensky would reaffirm those commitments.

“The president is looking forward to this,” Kirby said, while saying there were no travel plans to discuss for Biden to go to Kyiv. He said if a “trip made sense” it would be considered.

Biden on Wednesday announced a nearly $3 billion security assistance package to Ukraine.

Warning of a potential next step in the Russian invasion, Kirby said the United States had information showing that Russia was preparing to hold “fake referendums” in parts of Ukraine, potentially within days.

He said an announcement could come before the end of the week. Potential regions where a referendum could take place include Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

“The United States and the international community have been very clear that any attempt to control Ukraine’s sovereign territory will not be considered legitimate,” Kirby said.

He said the United States expects Russia to manipulate voting results and falsely claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia.

“It will be critical to expose and counter this misinformation in real time,” he said.

He said US reports show Russian officials fear there will be low turnout in upcoming votes.

Christi C. Elwood