Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

According to the White House, US President Joe Biden will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday to brief him about the US arms consignment and congratulate him on Ukraine’s Independence Day.

John Kirby, communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the US would continue to “rally the independent world” and “inspire allies and partners” to support Ukraine as the Russian offensive hits the six-month mark.

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

“The president is looking forward to it,” Kirby said, adding that there were no travel plans to discuss Biden’s visit to Kyiv. He added that if “the trip makes sense,” it would come under consideration.

Biden announced on Wednesday Security aid package of about $3 billion to Ukraine.

warning of a possible next step in the Russian offensive, Kirby said the US has information that Russia is preparing to hold a “sham referendum” in Ukraine’s territories, possibly within a few days.

He said an announcement could come before the end of the week. Possible regions where a referendum could take place include Kherson and Zaporizhzhya, along with Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

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

He said the US expects Russia to manipulate the results of the vote and falsely claim that Ukrainians want to join Russia.

“It will be important to counter and counter this propaganda in real time,” he said.

He said US information shows Russian officials are concerned that there will be a low turnout in the upcoming vote.