WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 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.
According to a senior Biden administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the trip, Biden invited Zelensky to Washington to reinforce the US’s “stand by Ukraine for as long as necessary.”
During their meeting, Biden will commit $2 billion in additional US security assistance to send Patriot anti-missile batteries to Ukraine amid Russian missile and drone bombings of cities.
Zelensky joint message to Congress scheduled for late in the evening as lawmakers prepare to vote on an additional $45 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine. The United States has provided about $68 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the resumption of violence between it and Russia.
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Zelensky’s visit will mark the 300th day since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In an email, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested lawmakers travel to Washington on Wednesday to “pay very special attention to democracy” that night.
“To have a complete and total hero in the United States Congress who is fighting for democracy, leading people who are fighting for democracy, will bring honor to the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi told reporters.
Zelensky’s visit will be the first time that the president of Ukraine leaves his country after the Russian attack. But this is not the first time he visits the USA. he met with Biden in September 2021, posing for photos with the president in the Oval Office and discussing matters of state for both nations.
According to the official, Biden and Zelensky discussed the upcoming visit during a phone call on December 11, and the White House officially extended the invitation last Wednesday. Zelensky accepted Sunday. The official said the US consulted with Zelensky about the security parameters and Zelensky signed off.
Biden and Zelensky will discuss “every element” of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including “where the war goes from here,” the official said.
White House spokesman John Kirby, speaking at a briefing last week, said the Biden administration has “no expectation” that winter will lead to fighting in the region.
“No indication, certainly no expectation, that the war will be over 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, a boost from the $37 billion Biden requested for the last round of aid. The increase comes amid fears that funding could be more difficult 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 referred to his visit to the US when he was presented with a Ukrainian flag while in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
“The boys 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 guys will pass it on to Congress, to the President of the United States. We are grateful for their support, but it is not enough. It is a hint. it is not enough.”
The mobile Patriot missile system is one of the most advanced in the US arsenal and can engage aircraft or ballistic missiles in all weather conditions.
Ukraine is desperate for air defense systems to counter a barrage of Russian missiles and drones targeting power plants and other civilian targets. US officials credit Ukraine’s ingenuity with old, Soviet-era air defense systems as they deny Russia control over Ukrainian airspace.
Patriot batteries are in high demand worldwide and require extensive training to operate.
Contributed by Associated Press