Ukrainian Zelenskyy says he is on his way to Washington for a visit on Wednesday
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine says he is going to Washington, DC on a Wednesday visit.
He announced his trip in a tweet early Wednesdayand said: “On the way to the US to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience and defense capability. In particular @POTUS and I will discuss Ukraine-US cooperation, I will also deliver a speech at the Congress and a series of bilateral meetings.”
The White House said in a statement early Wednesday that President Biden had invited his Ukrainian counterpart “to underscore the United States’ continued commitment to Ukraine.”
According to the statement, the two presidents will meet at the White House, after which Zelenskyy will “address a joint session of Congress to demonstrate strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine.”
“Three hundred days ago,” the statement continued, “Russia launched a brutal attack. In response, President Biden called the world together to support the Ukrainian people in defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“During the visit, President Biden will announce a significant new security assistance package to help Ukraine defend against Russian aggression. The visit will underscore the United States’ unwavering commitment to assisting Ukraine for as long as needed, including by providing economic, humanitarian and military assistance.”
A senior government official said the package will be worth “nearly $2 billion” and will include, for the first time, a Patriot missile battery, “which will be a crucial asset in defending the Ukrainian people against Russia’s barbaric attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure to defend Ukraine. We will train Ukrainian armed forces in the use of the Patriot missile battery in a third country.”
The official said Mr Biden will reassure Zelenskyy that the US “will stand by Ukraine for as long as is necessary and that support will remain broad, deep and bipartisan in the process.”
The visit has been in the works since November. An earlier plan to visit the US in September during the UN General Assembly was canceled because of the war.
US Rep. Marcy Kaptur, co-chair of the Ukraine faction in the House of Representatives, confirmed to CBS News that there were serious behind-the-scenes efforts to bring Zelenskyy to Washington.
“We would be very honored to visit him. I’m amazed he can make it given the situation,” said Kaptur. “It would be a great gift to have him in the Capitol. We work with leadership to be helpful. We personally understand if he can’t make it at the last minute.”
In a letter to her Democratic colleagues Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her members to return to Washington and be “physically present” at Wednesday’s House of Representatives session. Punchbowl News was the first to report that Zelenskky’s visit was the reason for the sudden gathering.
“We are concluding a very special session of the 117th Congress with legislation that will advance the American people and support our democracy,” Pelosi wrote. “Please be present on Wednesday evening for a very special focus on democracy.”
Addressing the Ukrainian people, Zelenskyy said this week was “extremely important” for Ukraine and suggested he had been asked to present a token of gratitude to the country’s allies.
“Our fighters gave me our flag today and asked to pass it on to those whose decisions are very important for Ukraine, for all our warriors,” he said. “We will definitely do it. We will definitely persevere. We will definitely get the necessary support for Ukraine.”
Zelenskyi’s speech comes as Congress works to pass itthis includes nearly $45 billion in military, humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine. The measure would be one of the last pieces of legislation passed by the current Congress, and lawmakers are rushing to clear the omnibus law before Friday’s deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.
The approximately $45 billion included for Ukraine is higher than the $37.7 billionin November and, if approved by Congress, would be the last tranche of emergency aid provided to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Lawmakers have provided more than $65 billion in aid to Ukraine since the invasion, though some House Republicans have opposed continuing direct funding to the country. This new package would bring US aid to over $100 billion.
The Department of Defense also deployed extensive military equipment through the end of November, including 38 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and Munitions, eight National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, 45 T-72B tanks, more than 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems and more than 8,500 Javelin anti-tank systems, as well as helicopters, armored vehicles and mine-resistant vehicles.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly expressed gratitude to Mr. Biden and lawmakers for the funding and security support, but in Marchfor additional weapons, including air defense systems. Appearing virtually before both chambers of Congress at the time, Ukraine’s President cited key events in US history — the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks — to further underscore the need for more aid.
Zelenskyy’s expected visit would be part of his first trip outside of Ukraine since Russia invaded in late February, and would represent a daring decision to leave the country amid the ongoing war and Russian attempts on his life. HeAt the White House in early September 2021, and the two have spoken repeatedly by phone in the months since the invasion of Russia, during which the US President has expressed his continued support for Ukraine.
The White House has considered several times whether to allow Mr Biden to visit Ukraine, but has presented such plans amid security concerns. But other senior US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, have also visited Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, during the year.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said Tuesday that Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress “would be the perfect ending to two years in which President Biden had some breakthrough accomplishments, and a year in which his greatest international accomplishment was ours Bringing NATO allies together in support of Ukrainian conclusion.”
Alan He, Melissa Quinn, Caroline Linton, and Brian Dakss contributed to this report.