Zelenskyy to meet with Biden, address U.S. Congress on his first known wartime trip outside Ukraine

Security forces take measures around United States Capitol ahead of the official visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyyin Washington D.C., United States on December 21, 2022.

Celal Gunes | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House Wednesday and then deliver an address to a joint session of Congress in the evening, his first known wartime trip outside Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion last February.

Biden is scheduled to welcome Zelenskyy to the White House at 2 p.m. ET. The two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, followed by a 4:30 p.m. ET press conference with the two leaders. Zelenskyy is then scheduled to deliver a speech to Congress at 7:30 p.m. ET.

“I hope you’re having a good flight, Volodymyr. I’m thrilled to have you here. Much to discuss,” Biden tweeted early Wednesday morning.

Zelenskyy’s visit comes as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on an omnibus spending bill that includes approximately $45 billion of both military and economic aid to Ukraine in the coming year, billions more than Biden initially requested in November.

The aid is primarily military, with more than $20 billion to supply weapons and equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces, who are waging a bitter fight in freezing temperatures to recapture territories occupied by Russian troops.

This figure also includes funding to replenish U.S. Defense Department stockpiles that have been depleted after nearly a year of providing materiel to Ukraine.

Another $6.2 billion is earmarked for the thousands of American troops that Biden ordered to deploy to Eastern Europe shortly after Russia’s invasion. They are largely stationed in Romania and Poland.

In addition to the money in the omnibus bill, Biden intends to announce a package of nearly $2 billion in security assistance during Zelenskyy’s visit, a senior administration official said.

This latest tranche will include the Patriot missile system, an advanced American air defense system that is capable of locating and destroying incoming artillery fire.

Until now, the United States has resisted sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, partly over concerns that Ukrainian troops would struggle to properly use the complex, multi-part weapon, which requires dozens of soldiers to operate it.

A worker installs Ukrainian and U.S. flags near the U.S. Capitol ahead of a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and an address to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are under near constant bombardment by Russian missiles and drones, which have destroyed vast swaths of the country’s electrical grid and water infrastructure.

If the Senate approves the yearlong government funding bill, it would go to the House, where Democratic leadership wants to pass it and send it to Biden’s desk before they leave for the holiday recess on Thursday.

The Biden administration and Ukraine’s many supporters in Congress also hope that Zelenskyy’s visit will help firm up congressional support for the massive aid package.

After nearly a year of war, some Republicans have begun to openly question whether the U.S. should keep funding the Ukrainian military.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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