It is nothing less than a hero’s reception in the US Congress – for the head of another country. For two minutes and 19 seconds, members of both chambers of parliament celebrated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with applause on Wednesday (local time) before a speech that could make history. It’s about resistance, freedom and military victory over Russia.
“Despite all the adversities and scenarios of doom, Ukraine has not fallen,” Zelenskyy shouted to the MPs on his first trip abroad in times of war, amid repeated cheering. “Russian tyranny has lost control of us”. Even today he appears – very much like a war president – in an olive-green military sweater with the emblem of the supreme commander. He makes it clear that he needs more weapons as a new phase in the nearly year-long Ukraine war looms.
Zelenskyy’s recent visit to his key supporter just before Christmas comes at a crucial time. With the rearmament of both sides, it could become more difficult for the Ukrainian armed forces to advance against the Russian soldiers in the east of their country in what will soon be a year of war. However, diplomats recently said they expected a Ukrainian offensive in the winter.
In the past ten months, the armed forces have managed to repel the Russian army, which previously appeared to be overpowering, after its invasion, first near Kyiv and then in the east of the country. But without the Americans, Zelenskyj stressed in the White House alongside President Biden, it would have been impossible.
But before Congress, Zelenskyy made it clear that the almost $22 billion in US military aid was not handouts. “Your money is not charity, it is an investment in global security and democracy, which we will handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskyy said. Kyiv is the bulwark against Russia – it is only a matter of time before Russia also attacks US allies, the Ukrainian warned. Weapons, training and intelligence information strengthened Zelenskyy’s fighters at all levels. They are still dependent on US aid. This is the main reason why the Ukrainian President has flown abroad for the first time since the beginning of the war.
However, Zelenskyy will return from his Washington visit with major American commitments: The United States wants to send Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine as part of a new $1.85 billion military aid package. That could also increase the pressure on states like Germany to increase arms supplies.
In addition, Biden, who greeted Zelenskyj with a fatherly pat on the shoulder, presented himself as a rock-solid ally without any preconditions: “You will never stand alone,” he assured. “The American people have been with you every step of the way, and we will stand by you for as long as it is necessary.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has handed over a flag from the eastern Ukrainian frontline town of Bakhmut to the US Congress. During his speech in front of the two houses of parliament, he handed the leader of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, the flag as a thank you to Ukrainian soldiers. Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris then held up the flag together. “This flag is a symbol of our victory. In this war we stand, we fight and we will win because we are united. Ukraine, America and the entire free world,” said Zelenskyy.
From the Russian point of view, the situation in the war is significantly aggravated by the delivery of the Patriots to Ukraine. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin has long seen his invasion of Ukraine as a war with the West and the weapon systems of the NATO countries. The “collective West” is aiming for the annihilation of Russia and is using Ukraine as an instrument, he has repeatedly claimed. Russia has recently repeatedly accused the United States of being a party to the war itself. The Patriots would therefore now also become “legitimate” targets for the Russian armed forces.
Just prior to Zelenky’s appearances in Washington, Putin had emphatically stated at a major Defense Ministry meeting on Wednesday that he wanted to win the war at all costs. To this end, the army is to be better equipped and the number of soldiers increased. There are no financial limits for this, he emphasized. Moscow and Kyiv want to show their strength again shortly before the turn of the year and are relying on big stages.
Above all, however, Putin used the meeting to once again point out the nuclear weapons of the nuclear power. For example, the new Sarmat-type ICBMs, which can be equipped with several nuclear warheads, should soon be put into service, said the 70-year-old. Russia will “defend” the annexed Ukrainian territories under any circumstances.
The signs in Washington and Moscow are definitely not pointing to peace – even if Zelenskyy is holding out the prospect of a global summit. However, he insists that there will be “no compromises” on the road to peace, no matter how brutal the Russian attacks should be. “We will celebrate Christmas,” he concludes his speech to Congress, “even if there is no electricity. The light of our belief in ourselves will not go out.”
Selenskyj traveled to Washington on Wednesday. It was his first trip abroad since Russia’s war of aggression against his country began around ten months ago. The US government on Wednesday pledged $1.85 billion in new military aid to Ukraine. Total US military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of Biden’s tenure is US$21.9 billion.
11:00 p.m.: “Every dollar of US aid is an investment in global security.” This ends the statement by the two presidents.
10:56 p.m .: This ends Biden’s speech, now Selenskyj speaks. “I traveled to the United States to thank the American people.” The trip was a “historic” event in Ukraine-US relations. Zelenskyj speaks in Ukrainian. In a short statement earlier, he had spoken in English.
10:55 p.m.: “This year has brought so much needless suffering to Ukrainians,” says Biden. But: “The United States will stand by Ukraine as long as it is necessary.”
10:52 p.m .: Now Biden lists again which weapons the new aid package contains – above all, of course, the Patriot missile system for air defense. “We have to be clear about what Russia is doing: It is deliberately attacking Ukraine’s infrastructure in the darkest part of the year. Russia lets people starve, they freeze to death. Russia uses winter as a weapon.”
10:50 p.m .: “Ukraine won the battle for Kyiv, for Cherson, for Kharkiv.” Selenskyj has repeatedly shown that he is ready for “fair negotiations”, but “he” – Putin – is not.
10:48 p.m.: “We delivered a steady stream of weapons to Ukraine,” stresses Biden, “and we were not alone.” The US President’s speech so far has been almost an enumeration of the aid that the US has provided. But, according to Biden, “Ukraine has been showing the world its unbreakable will for 300 days.”
10:47 p.m .: Putin is alone, so is Biden – not Selenskyj. Biden even praises his political rivals, the Republicans, for the support they have provided, who, together with Biden’s Democrats, have put together gigantic aid packages for Ukraine.
10:45 p.m.: Biden starts. “I am honored to welcome you back to the White House,” said the US President to Zelenskyy. “It’s important for us to hear directly how the fight is going and how we can continue it in 2023.”
10:44 p.m .: It starts about a quarter of an hour late! Biden and Zelenskyj step up to the lectern.
10:37 p.m .: The presidential duo is late.
10:15 p.m .: A press conference by Selenskyj and Biden has been announced for 10:30 p.m. FOCUS online accompanies them here in the live ticker.
9 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave his US colleague Joe Biden a soldier’s medal at the beginning of a visit to Washington. “I want to give you something from a man who is truly a hero,” Zelenskyi said to Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday, handing him the medal. The Ukrainian soldier asked Selenskyj to pass the award on to Biden. “He’s very brave and he said to take it to a very brave president.” Biden thanked him. “Underserved but greatly appreciated,” he said.
8:09 p.m .: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has arrived at the White House on his first known trip abroad since the Russian war of aggression began. TV pictures showed how the 44-year-old was welcomed by US President Joe Biden in Washington on Wednesday.
8:08 p.m .: As part of strict security measures, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Washington on a US government plane. Pictures showed him on Wednesday getting out of the white and blue machine in the United States.
Zelenskyj’s first known trip abroad since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression is associated with a security risk for the Ukrainian president – which may have prompted the US government to take the unusual step. The US is Kiev’s most important ally in the defensive struggle against the aggressor Russia.
7:55 p.m .: During his visit to Washington, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to further strengthen and support his military in the war with Russia.
“I’m in Washington today to thank the American people, the President and Congress for their much-needed support. And also to continue cooperation and bring our victory closer,” Zelenskyy wrote in the Telegram news service. He will conduct a series of negotiations to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience and defense capabilities. “Next year we have to give back the Ukrainian flag and freedom to our whole country, our whole people.”
6:51 p.m .: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj arrived in the United States on Wednesday for his official visit. This was reported by the Ukrainian state agency Ukrinform. It is the Ukrainian leader’s first known trip abroad since the Russian invasion of his homeland began on February 24.
In Washington, Zelenskyj will first meet US President Joe Biden in the White House. Even before the visit, the United States approved the delivery of new Patriot-type air defense systems. After the talks, both presidents want to hold a joint press conference.
In the evening (local time) Zelenskyj is scheduled to give a speech to the congress. Zelenskyj had already given a video address to the US Congress in March. At that time he had called for the establishment of a no-fly zone to protect Ukraine.
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