Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making his way to Washington on Wednesday, December 21, 2022 for a summit with President Joe Biden and to address the Congress.
This is his first known trip outside the Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in February.
Zelenskyy said on his Twitter account, “On my way to the United States to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine.”
The highly sensitive trip is taking place after ten months of a brutal war that has wounded and claimed the lives of tens of thousands on both sides of the conflict, along with devastation for Ukrainian civilians.
It also comes as U.S. lawmakers are poised to vote on a year-end spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and as the U.S prepares to send Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine to bolster its defense.
Zelenskyy headed abroad after making an audacious trip on Tuesday, December 20, 2022 to what he tagged as the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) front line of the conflict, the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province.
He commended Ukrainian troops for their “courage, resilience and strength.”
According to a U.S administration official, the White House consulted with Zelenskyy on security for his departure from Ukraine and travel to Washington, including the risk of Russian action while Zelenskyy was briefly out of the country.
The official refused to give details of the measures taken to safeguard the Ukrainian leader. Albeit the official said the U.S. expected Russia to continue its attacks on Ukrainian forces and civilian infrastructure targets despite the trip.
In a statement on Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, iterated that Biden looks forward to the visit and that the address to Congress will demonstrate “the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine.”
“The visit will underscore the United States’ steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance.”White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre
Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with Biden at the White House in the afternoon and then join Biden for a news conference in the East Room. He was expected to address Congress in the evening.
Biden has repeated that while the U.S. will arm and train Ukraine, American forces will not be directly engaged in the conflict.
The visit comes at a critical moment as the White House prepares for greater resistance when Republicans take control of the House in January and give more scrutiny to aid for Ukraine.
GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has opined that his party’s lawmakers will not write a “blank cheque” for Ukraine.
The Fight For Ukraine Is The Fight For Democracy Itself
In her invitation to Zelenskyy for him to address a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi said “the fight for Ukraine is the fight for democracy itself.”
Pelosi added that lawmakers look forward to hearing Zelenskyy’s inspiring message of unity, resilience and determination.
The House Speaker encouraged lawmakers to be on hand for Wednesday evening’s address by the Ukrainian leader.
Pelosi wrote on Tuesday, December 20, 2022 in a letter to her colleagues, “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,” she added.