Biden’s Poland Visit to Spotlight Weapons, Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine

RZESZOW, Poland—President Biden traveled to this once quiet town that has developed into a principal hub for Western military aid to Ukraine, signaling U.S. determination to support Kyiv with high-tech weaponry to punish Moscow for its invasion.

Mr. Biden is scheduled to meet his Polish counterpart,

Andrzej Duda,

a day after both of them attended a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit where members pledged to reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank, provide further military support to Ukraine, and impose high economic costs on Russia for its attack that began Feb. 24.

The two leaders are expected to focus on the growing refugee crisiswith the bulk of Ukrainians fleeing the fighting having crossed into Poland. More than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine, the United Nations said, with over 2.2 million arriving in Poland.

Mr. Biden on Thursday said the U.S. would take in 100,000. Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized countries after their Thursday meeting in Brussels, also attended by Mr. Biden, called for greater international assistance for those countries neighboring Ukraine and most affected by the inflow of refugees.

Mr. Biden, before heading to Poland, said he aimed for his visit to “reinforce my commitment to have the United States make sure we are a major piece of dealing with the relocation of all those folks, as well as humanitarian assistance needed both inside Ukraine and outside Ukraine.”

Rzeszow has become a major resupply artery for Ukraine. Military transport planes and other cargo aircraft are landing at a rapid pace in a major airlift operation to bring in humanitarian aid and to funnel antitank weapons, heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles, communications and other supplies across the border with Ukraine about 60 miles further east. The U.S. was joined by countries such as the U.K. and Germany to pledge to keep arms to Ukraine flowing.

President Biden traveled to Poland after announcing that the U.S. would boost natural gas deliveries to Europe; as Russian strikes continued in Ukraine, officials in Mariupol said about 300 people were killed in a theater bombed last week. Photo: Associated Press

On the eve of Mr. Biden’s arrival in Poland, a hulking Antonov cargo plane landed at the Rzeszow airport. It had departed from an airfield in Turkey, near the factory where TB2 Bayraktar drones are made that Ukraine has used to pummel Russian ground forces.

Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky

urged NATO allies to ship more and better equipment as he joined the summit virtually. He asked for antiship weapons, planes, tanks, air defenses and systems that can fire barrages of ground rockets like the ones that Russia has used to target Ukrainian troops and cities.

Mr. Biden, before leaving Brussels, also ramped up efforts to further punish Moscow for its attack, with the U.S. on Friday pledging to provide more liquefied natural gas to Europe this year to help free the continent from reliance on Russian energy. European states are moving to become energy independent from Russia, the continent’s most important energy supplier, to stop money flowing to Moscow. The U.S. is the world’s largest natural-gas producer.

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A U.S. Air Force plane landing at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland Thursday.


Photo:

REUTERS

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Ukrainian refugees at a railway station in Przemysl, Poland, on Friday.


Photo:

Sergei Grits/Associated Press

The U.S. president is expected to visit American troops in Poland to help provide greater protection in the face of Russia’s military operations in the neighboring country. The U.S. has dispatched soldiers and Patriot missile defense systems to Poland, among other items. NATO has launched a strategic review that could lead to leaders agreeing to more permanently base troops in the countries closest to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

The fighting across the border from here in Ukraine has lasted far longer and been much fiercer than U.S. and allied officials had expected. Ukraine’s military has surprised its allies for its ability to repel Russian attacks, down its planes and destroy its tankskeeping the invading army from making significant advances.

In Ukraine, the battle around the capital continued overnight. To Kyiv’s northwest, Ukraine continued its attempted encirclement of Moscow’s forces, drawing closer to allow for ambushes.

The Ukrainian military, including special forces and some Western fighters, made territorial gains to the west of the city, including in the town of Irpin, a battleground for weeks now, where some civilians braved artillery strikes by walking the streets. The head of Ukraine’s national police said authorities were clearing Irpin.

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A member of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces preparing to go to the front line on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday.


Photo:

Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

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A man fleeing with his belongings in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday.


Photo:

aris messinis/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Russia made gains to Kyiv’s north and east, retaking the town of Izyum and shelling Kharkiv and Chernihiv, where Ukraine’s general staff said its troops were hindering a Russian advance on the capital.

Russia, which committed some 190,000 troops to the invasion of Ukraine last month, has lost as many as 40,000 of these troops between those killed in action, injured, captured or deserted, according to NATO estimates, a level of casualties that would render a large part of the Russian force incapable of offensive operations.

The toll on Ukraine’s civilian population has been immense. More than 1,000 people have been confirmed to have died in the month of fighting, with another 1,600-plus injured, the U.N. said, adding the actual number was likely much higher. Ten million people have been uprooted, the U.N. has said.

Municipal authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Friday said about 300 people died in a theater that was bombed by Russian forces last week. Hundreds of civilians were using the theater’s basement as a bomb shelter when the Russian airstrike hit on March 16, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Write to Tarini Party at Tarini.Parti@wsj.com

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