In Washington, Zelensky seeks to rally help for grueling battle with Russia

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an impassioned and emotional plea to Congress on Wednesday for continued American help in opposition to Russia’s unrelenting assault, talking personally and passionately about why Ukraine wanted extra help and weapons to lawmakers whose ranks embrace some vocal skeptics of future reinforcements.

Zelensky’s tackle to a joint session of Congress got here after he met with President Biden throughout a unprecedented day in Washington that marked the Ukrainian chief’s first worldwide journey since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days in the past. The 2 projected a united entrance on the White Home, and each males issued blistering rebukes of Russia as they sought to rally help for an extended and grueling battle.

However Zelensky, who has discovered his closest ally in Biden, confronted a far larger problem on Capitol Hill, the place a rising variety of Home Republicans — who’re poised to take management of the chamber in January — have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to persevering with to ship extra help to Ukraine. Zelensky’s go to additionally got here as U.S. public help for sending expansive quantities of help to Ukraine has softened considerably over the previous a number of months amid rising financial anxieties.

Nonetheless, Zelensky — who donned his signature army inexperienced sweater and heavy boots — obtained a number of standing ovations from the tons of of lawmakers gathered Wednesday, at occasions nearly shifting him to tears. However he instructed Congress he wants extra help and weapons to defeat Russia, and sought to persuade lawmakers that they weren’t doing Ukraine a favor — that the US and different nations had simply as a lot of a stake within the battle as Ukraine does.

“Now we have artillery, sure, thanks. … Is it sufficient? Truthfully, probably not,” Zelensky mentioned. He continued: “Your cash just isn’t charity. It’s an funding within the world safety and democracy that we deal with in probably the most accountable method.”

He added: “This battle can’t be frozen or postponed. It can’t be ignored hoping that the ocean or one thing else will present safety.” Placing the main target squarely on U.S. help, he continued: “A lot is determined by the world. A lot on the planet is determined by you.”

After the speech, Home Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) mentioned: “My place has by no means modified. I help Ukraine however I by no means supported a clean test. We wish to be certain there’s accountability for everyone, the cash that’s spent.” His feedback mirrored a rising consensus amongst Home Republicans who’ve demanded extra oversight of how allotted funds are used.

On the entire, lawmakers in attendance had been spirited by Zelensky’s look, giving him 18 standing ovations all through his speech. Republicans and Democrats typically cheered as they clapped, whereas Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) unfurled the Ukrainian flag and held it up with the assistance of her Democratic colleagues to visibly present Zelensky the help that exists for his nation.

However a small group of Home Republicans important of the continued funding to Ukraine, together with Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida, didn’t clap for Zelensky when he walked onto the Home ground and infrequently stood all through his speech. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the highest critics of funding the battle, didn’t attend.

“I attended out of respect, not settlement,” Gaetz instructed reporters after the speech.

Earlier within the day, Biden vowed to help Ukraine “so long as it takes” as the 2 leaders spoke about Russian President Vladimir Putin sharply — signaling that an finish to the preventing is nowhere in sight. Zelensky referred to as Putin and Russian forces “terrorists,” whereas Biden referred to as the Russian chief “inhumane” and mentioned Putin had made clear he had “no intention of stopping this merciless battle.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Biden shared their hopes for peace between Russia and Ukraine in a information convention on Dec. 21. (Video: The Washington Submit)

Congress is poised to move $45 billion in new spending for Ukraine this week in an end-of-year spending package deal. But a number of Home Republicans criticized the help package deal Wednesday or Zelensky’s go to instantly.

Republican Chip Roy of Texas referred to as the Ukrainian president’s tackle to Congress “political theater.”

“That is extra of the theater that’s being orchestrated by the present outgoing Democratic Home management and Senate management,” he instructed reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

The go to, which was deliberate with nice secrecy, got here at a key inflection level, with Zelensky’s military bracing for a brutal winter of preventing and the way forward for U.S. help for his efforts headed right into a interval of larger uncertainty. Towards that backdrop, each leaders got down to renew their pitch for help of Ukraine’s army efforts.

Throughout a joint information convention after assembly privately on the White Home, Biden argued that the stakes of the battle lengthen effectively past Ukraine’s borders.

“We perceive in our bones that Ukraine’s combat is a part of one thing a lot larger,” Biden mentioned. “The American folks know if we stand by with such blatant assaults on democracy and liberty … the world would absolutely face worse penalties.”

Zelensky equally forged Ukraine’s combat as a broader one which was necessary for democracies around the globe.

“I want you to see your kids alive and adults,” he mentioned throughout the information convention with Biden, talking in English, as he reminded folks of the variety of mother and father who had misplaced their little children throughout the battle. He added, “The primary factor what I can want you, and naturally, to be along with us typically as a result of we actually combat for our frequent victory in opposition to this tyranny.”

The Biden administration introduced a $1.85 billion army help package deal for Ukraine on Wednesday, which incorporates the Patriot missile system, a complicated air-defense weapon that Zelensky’s authorities has lengthy coveted. The cash is separate from congressional packages.

Biden and Zelensky displayed heat and luxury round one another Wednesday, embracing upon Zelensky’s arrival and presenting one another with items and gestures. Biden additionally at occasions spoke in emotional phrases about the necessity to help Ukraine and the horrors Zelensky and his folks have endured by the hands of Putin.

The unity stood in distinction to the extra combined opinions about Ukraine help on Capitol Hill, the place there are fears that Home Republicans might pull again help once they take management in January and a brand new political dynamic takes form. Some members aligned intently with former president Donald Trump, who’s searching for the presidency once more, have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to persevering with to help an abroad battle.

But many different Republicans have taken a unique tack and have voiced sturdy help for persevering with to again Ukraine with help and weaponry. “The Ukrainian individuals are brave and harmless they usually deserve our assist,” mentioned Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a speech Wednesday on the Senate ground.

Sustaining home and world help for Ukraine because the battle drags on far longer than initially anticipated has grow to be a central mission of Biden’s presidency and is a microcosm of his broader international and home coverage framework. He typically talks of a worldwide battle between democracy and autocracy and has highlighted comparable themes as he has campaigned for fellow Democrats in opposition to Republicans at dwelling and laid the groundwork for a reelection bid.

“It’s totally acceptable that Zelensky’s first journey exterior his nation could be to Washington,” mentioned Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical consulting agency. “By far [Biden’s] most profitable international coverage has been main the coalition in response to the Russian invasion.”

Biden struck a straightforward dynamic in his public appearances with Zelensky. The Ukrainian president arrived for a red-carpet welcome ceremony on the White Home, the place he was greeted by Biden and first woman Jill Biden. The president, sporting a blue and yellow tie — the colours of Ukraine’s flag — shook fingers with Zelensky earlier than all three posed for photographs.

Forward of the assembly, Zelensky mentioned he needed to specific his “sturdy appreciation” for the US’ help and for Biden’s management.

“Thanks from our abnormal folks to your abnormal folks, People,” Zelensky mentioned.

Biden mentioned Putin was “escalating his assault on civilians” and attempting to “use winter as a weapon” earlier than remarking on Zelensky’s standing as Time journal’s Individual of the 12 months.

“You’re man of the 12 months,” Biden instructed Zelensky.

Zelensky additionally offered Biden with a Ukrainian army medal that earlier within the 12 months was awarded to a Ukrainian officer for “excellent feats on the battlefield,” in line with the White Home.

The officer met with Zelensky when he made an sudden go to Tuesday to Bakhmut, the positioning of among the bloodiest preventing within the battle, and requested the Ukrainian chief to offer the medal to Biden as a token of his gratitude. The officer wrote Biden a letter, the White Home mentioned, to specific Ukraine’s appreciation for U.S. help that he mentioned saved many Ukrainians alive.

Biden mentioned the award was “undeserved however a lot appreciated.” He then gave Zelensky two command cash — one for the Ukrainian officer and one for Zelensky.

Biden and Zelensky have spoken for months about an in-person go to, in line with a White Home official who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate inside deliberations, however they may not make it work earlier than this week due to safety considerations Zelensky confronted. America supported Zelensky’s journey to Washington, together with by offering a U.S. army plane that Zelensky flew in in a single day from Poland.

For Zelensky, the go to got here as Ukrainians are bracing for an extended winter. Putin has employed ruthless assaults in latest weeks in an effort to interrupt the Ukrainian folks, together with on electrical grids and different civilian infrastructure that has left many with out warmth, energy and water on bitterly chilly days.

Russia “is concentrating on important infrastructure to ensure life is as arduous as potential,” Biden mentioned. “As we head into the brand new 12 months, it’s necessary for the American folks and the world to listen to instantly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s combat and the necessity to proceed to face collectively via 2023.”

Biden mentioned Zelensky made clear that he was open to pursuing a “simply peace” however that Putin had made no such gesture. Biden and his aides have made clear they won’t power Ukraine into any negotiation.

But Ukrainians have continued to exceed expectations of their means to take again key cities and territories. Putin initially thought Kyiv would fall in a matter of days after he invaded the nation, however Russia needed to rapidly reduce its ambitions and give attention to the nation’s east after Ukrainian forces held them off.

Biden has labored to carry collectively the Western coalition regardless of the worldwide upheaval the battle has prompted, and he has spent hours on the telephone with leaders who’ve been reluctant to help Ukraine. Throughout the information convention, he sought to minimize the prospect of a fracturing alliance. European leaders haven’t indicated they’ll pull again help for Ukraine, however there was anxiousness a few troublesome winter with rising warmth costs aggravated by the battle.

Putin “thought he might break NATO, he thought he might break the West, he thought he might be welcomed by the Ukrainian individuals who had been Russian-speaking,” Biden mentioned. “He was unsuitable, unsuitable and unsuitable.”

Biden has developed a detailed relationship with Zelensky that has at occasions been contentious, notably because the Ukrainian chief has privately and publicly pressured the US and European nations to do extra. America, nevertheless, has far eclipsed all of its allies within the quantity of help and weapons it has despatched.

The U.S. president had been taking a look at an end-of-year alternative to host Zelensky, notably because the White Home and Congress had been working to move and approve massive army and financial help packages, the White Home official mentioned.

The White Home needed to ship a “sturdy sign” that the US is dedicated to persevering with to help Zelensky, the official mentioned, together with by saying the safety package deal and Patriot missile battery.

The package deal Biden introduced Wednesday will carry complete U.S. army help for Ukraine to $21.9 billion for the reason that starting of the Biden administration — a determine that dwarfs the extent of army help from all different European nations.

In Europe, the highest suppliers of army help are Britain, which has dedicated to $3.29 billion in weapons and army financing; Germany, at $2.4 billion; and Poland, at $1.9 billion, in line with the Kiel Institute for the World Economic system.

Europe’s choices to Ukraine are extra substantial when calculating total authorities help, which incorporates humanitarian help and financial help.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and former FBI agent based mostly in Kyiv, emerged from Zelensky’s speech inspired. He mentioned he sensed from a few of his most conservative colleagues, “folks you wouldn’t anticipate to listen to from,” that they had been moved by Zelensky’s request to proceed aiding Ukraine.

As a reasonable who strives for bipartisanship, Fitzpatrick mentioned it’s his “primary precedence” to ensure a Home GOP majority continues to help Ukraine.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Camila DeChalus, John Hudson and John Wagner contributed to this report.

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