Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Washington on Wednesday for a summit with President Joe Biden and an address to Congress in a bid to shore up support for his country and send a defiant message to its Russian invaders.
“The American people have been with you every step of the way. And we will stay with you. We will stay with you for as long as it takes,” Biden told Zelenskiy at a joint news conference in the White House.
Biden put numbers to that support: an additional military assistance package to Kiyv of $1.85 billion. Beyond the economic aid, the most symbolic commitment will be the shipment of a battery of long-range Patriot missiles, a weapon that the United States had so far resisted contributing to Ukraine’s defensive efforts against Russia despite Zelenskiy’s insistent demands for it to deal with Russian attacks.
Zelenskiy thanked the military support: “The Patriots will help us create a safe airspace; it will be the only way to stop the aggression of a terrorist state. We need to survive this winter.”
Zelenskiy had said on his Twitter account before his arrival that the visit, his first known trip outside Ukraine since the war began in February, was “to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities” of Ukraine and to discuss cooperation with the United States.
An address to Congress is expected in the evening.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had confirmed in an early Wednesday morning tweet that he was traveling to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress later in the day. This is the Ukrainian leader’s first trip abroad since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February.
On my way to the US to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of 🇺🇦. In particular, @POTUS and I will discuss cooperation between 🇺🇦 and 🇺🇸. I will also have a speech at the Congress and a number of bilateral meetings.— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) December 21, 2022
The visit comes at a time when the US Congress is set to vote on a year-end spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and as the US prepares to send Patriot surface-to-air missiles to help stave off Russia’s invasion.
This latest package would be the largest transfer of funds from the US government to date and would guarantee additional support for the coming months of war in Europe.
Nancy Pelosi, who is spending her last days as speaker of the House, on Tuesday announced an extraordinary session for Wednesday night with a “very special focus on democracy.” Pelosi’s announcement, which did not add more information, came in the form of a letter. “We are ending a very special session of the 117th Congress with legislation that makes progress for the American people as well as support for our democracy. Please be present for a very special focus on Democracy Wednesday night,” wrote Pelosi.
The Washington visit comes a day after Zelenskiy made a daring and dangerous trip to what he called the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) front line, the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province, where he praised Ukrainian troops for their “courage, resilience and strength” as artillery boomed in the background.
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