Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi will meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress on Wednesday in his first trip outside his country since Russia launched its violent invasion of Ukraine in February.
Biden invited Zelensky to Washington to strengthen the U.S. “position with Ukraine for as long as necessary,” said a senior Biden administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the trip.
During his meeting, Biden will provide $2 billion in additional U.S. security aid to send Patriot anti-missile batteries to Ukraine as Russian missiles and drones bombard cities.
Zelensky joint address to Congress scheduled for later in the evening, as lawmakers prepare to vote on an additional $45 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine. Since violence between Ukraine and Russia resumed, the United States has provided approximately $68 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
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Zelensky’s visit will mark the 300th day since Russia invaded Ukraine. In a letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi advised lawmakers to travel to Washington on Wednesday to “focus very specifically on democracy” that night.
“To have a complete and utter hero in the Congress of the United States who is fighting for democracy, leading the people who are fighting for democracy, that would be a credit to the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi told reporters.
Zelensky’s trip will be the first time a Ukrainian president has left his country since the Russian attack. However, it is not the first time he has visited the USA – he met with Biden in September 2021, posing in the Oval Office to take a photo with the president and discuss current national issues for both countries.
Biden and Zelensky discussed the upcoming visit in a Dec. 11 phone call, the official said, and the White House formally extended the invitation last Wednesday. Zelensky accepted on Sunday. The U.S. discussed security parameters with Zelensky, the official said, and Zelensky signed off.
Biden and Zelensky will discuss “all elements” of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including “where the war goes from,” the official said.
Speaking at a briefing last week, White House spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration had “no expectation” that winter would quell fighting in the region.
“There is no sign, certainly no hope, that the war will end by the end of the year,” Kirby said. “None of the indicators point in that direction.”
Lawmakers are rushing to pass a $1.7 trillion spending package before Christmas that includes $45 billion for Ukraine, an increase from the $37 billion Biden requested in the last round of aid. The increase comes amid concerns that funding may be harder to come by next year when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.
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In a video released by his office on Tuesday, Zelensky hinted at his trip to the United States as he was presented with a Ukrainian flag while in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
“The guys handed over our beautiful Ukrainian flag with their signatures for us to pass on,” Zelensky said in the video. “We are not in an easy situation. The enemy is increasing his army, and our people are braver and need more powerful weapons. We will take it from the boys to Congress, to the President of the United States. We are grateful for their support, but it is not enough. This is a hint – with it is not enough.”
The Patriot mobile missile system is one of the most advanced in the US arsenal and can shoot down aircraft or ballistic missiles in all weather conditions.
Ukraine is eager for air defense systems to counter a barrage of Russian missiles and drones targeting power plants and other civilian targets. U.S. officials consider Ukraine’s ingenuity to be older, Soviet-era air defense systems that deny Russia the ability to gain control of Ukrainian airspace.
Patriot batteries are in high demand worldwide and require extensive training to operate.
Contributing to: Associated Press