President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meet with President Biden at the White House on Thursday during a visit to Washington, where he worked to gain additional U.S. support for Ukraine in their war with Russia. Zelenskyy shared a message on the war’s progress, but faced new questions about the aid the U.S. has donated for the last 19 months to help Ukraine in the fight against Russian forces. This is Zelenskyy’s second visit to Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Zelenskyy came to the Capitol in private talks with Republican and Democratic leaders. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin greeted Zelenskyy; and at the Capitol, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy notably chose not to join House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in greeting the Ukrainian president when he arrived. McCarthy also confirmed that he declined Zelenskyy’s request for a joint session of Congress, saying there wasn’t time on short notice. Republican House lawmakers also questioned Zelenskyy on the way forward for Ukraine as the two-year mark approaches without major breakthroughs.
Later, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed Zelenskyy and his wife, Olena Zelenska at the White House, where they received a red carpet arrival on the South Lawn followed by time in the Oval Office, an expanded gathering in the East Room, and one-on-one time for the two first ladies. The Biden administration announced hundreds of millions of dollars in additional security aid for the country, including for air defense munitions. The new package of military assistance includes “significant” air defense capabilities to help Ukraine “harden” its defenses, said national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Biden assured Zelenskyy: “The American people are determined to see to it that we do all we can to ensure the world stands with you. That is our overwhelming objective.”
Zelenskyy’s meeting with senators on Thursday took place behind closed doors in the Old Senate Chamber, where the Ukrainian leader received a warm welcome from both parties on his stop in the Senate, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer flanking him as he walked in. Schumer told reporters afterward one sentence summed up the meeting: “Mr. Zelenskyy said if we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.” Senate Republican leader McConnell said afterward he was proud to welcome Zelenskyy to the Capitol: “Americans’ support for Ukraine is not a charity. It’s an investment in our own self-interest.”
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