“It’s an honor to be by your side”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked President Joe Biden, US lawmakers and “ordinary people” of America for their support during his visit to the White House on Wednesday. Biden told Zelenskyy that Ukrainians are “inspiring the world” before the two leaders began a summit in the Oval Office that marked Zelenskyy’s first known trip outside of his home country since February’s Russian invasion.

In a brief speech to reporters, Biden told Zelenskyy that “it’s an honor to be by your side,” and he pledged continued financial, military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Biden also warned that Russia is “trying to use winter as a weapon” in the war.

Zelenskyy said he wanted to visit the United States at an earlier date but could not. He stressed that the “war is not over yet” and that his country faces many challenges in the fight against Russia.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden salutes President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the White House on Wednesday as leaders try to show a unified front against it Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Their summit was Zelenskyy’s first known trip outside of his homeland since the war began in February.

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden greeted Zelenskyy, who was dressed in casual army greens, as he climbed out of his vehicle. He shook hands with Biden before they walked in for their meeting in the Oval Office, followed by a press conference. In the evening will Zelenskyy address Congress.

“I’m in Washington today to thank the American people, the President and Congress for their much-needed support,” Zelenskyy posted on his official Instagram account after landing. “And also to continue working together to bring our victory closer.” He said the visit will strengthen “Ukraine’s resilience and defense capabilities.”

The highly sensitive trip came after 10 months of a brutal war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides and devastated Ukrainian civilians. Shortly before his arrival, the US announced theirs largest single delivery of arms to Ukraineincluding Patriot surface-to-air missilesand Congress planned to vote on a spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy went abroad after manufacture a daring and dangerous journey Tuesday to what he called the hottest spot on the war’s 1,300-kilometer frontline, the town of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s embattled Donetsk province. He praised the Ukrainian troops for their “courage, resilience and strength” as artillery pounded in the background.

Poland’s private broadcaster TVN24 said Zelenskyy entered Poland early on Wednesday on his way to Washington. The station showed footage of what appeared to be Zelenskyy arriving at a train station and being escorted to a motorcade. According to TVN24, the video, which was partially blurred for security reasons, was shot in Przemysl, a Polish border town that was the arrival point for many war refugees.

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US officials have commented on Zelenskyy’s travel plans, citing security concerns, but a US official confirmed that Zelenskyy was transported on a US Air Force jet that landed at Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre Said in a statement that the visit “will underscore the United States’ unwavering commitment to assisting Ukraine for as long as needed, including by providing economic, humanitarian and military assistance.”

Zelenskyy was scheduled to meet with Biden at the White House in the afternoon and then join Biden for a press conference in the East Room. The address to Congress, the Vice President Kamala Harris will participate was expected in the evening

speaker Nancy Pelosiin her invitation to Zelenskyy to address lawmakers, said “the fight for Ukraine is the fight for democracy itself” and that they looked forward to “hearing your inspiring message of unity, resilience and determination.”

US and Ukrainian officials have made it clear that they do not see an immediate solution to the war and are preparing to continue fighting for some time. The latest infusion of US funds would be the largest yet – and exceed Biden’s $37 billion demand.

Biden has reiterated that while the US will arm and train Ukraine, American forces will not be directly involved in the war.

Biden and Zelenskyy first discussed the idea of ​​a visit during a phone call Dec. 11, followed by a formal invitation three days later, according to a senior US government official. Zelenskyy accepted the invitation Friday and it was confirmed Sunday when the White House began coordinating with Pelosi, D-Calif., to arrange the congressional address.

The White House consulted with Zelenskyy on security, including the risk of Russian action, while Zelenskyy was briefly out of the country, said the official, who declined to detail the measures taken to protect the Ukrainian leader. Officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the visit.

The US $1.85 billion military aid package will include for the first time: a Patriot missile battery and precision-guided bombs for its fighter jets, US officials said. It represents an extension of the breed of advanced weapons designed to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses against the increasing barrage of Russian missiles.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system seen as a provocative step and that the system and any crews accompanying it would be a legitimate target for Moscow’s military.

It was unclear when the Patriot battery would arrive at the front lines in Ukraine, given the need for US troops to train Ukrainian forces. The training can last several weeks and will probably take place in Germany.

The visit comes at an important time as the White House braces for more opposition when Republicans take control of the House in January and take a closer look at aid to Ukraine. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California has said his party will not issue a “blank check” to Ukraine.

Biden and Zelenskyy have spoken frequently on the phone, with Biden praising Ukraine for standing firm against the Russians and Zelenskyy thanking the US President for his support.

The one exception to those heartfelt calls came in June, shortly after Biden told Zelenskyy that an additional $1 billion package would go to Ukraine. Zelenskyy insisted on ticking the extra help he felt Ukraine needed.

This angered Biden, who underscored the generosity of the American people to Zelenskyy. But the brief moment of suspense has not caused lasting difficulties to discuss the private conversations, according to officials familiar with the episode, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Majority Leader in the Senate Chuck Schumer opened the session of the chamber with the adoption of the aid package and the confirmation of the new US ambassador to Russia, Lynne M Tracy, would send a strong signal that the Americans are “unambiguous” on Ukraine. Tracy was later confirmed by a vote of 93-2.

Schumer, DN.Y., said Zelenskyy comes not only as President, but as “an ambassador of freedom itself.”

The top Senate Republican, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnellsaid, “The most basic reasons for continuing to help Ukraine degrade and defeat the Russian invaders are cold, hard, practical American interests.” He said, “Defeating Russian aggression will help prevent further security crises in… prevent Europe”.

Russia’s invasion, the started on February 24thShe’s lost momentum. The illegally annexed provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhia remain fiercely contested.

Amid the stalemate in the east, Moscow has used missiles and drones to attack Ukraine’s power supply, hoping to leave people without power as freezing weather sets in.

In a video released by his office about Bakhmut’s visit, Zelenskyy received a Ukrainian flag and alluded to handing it over to US leaders.

“The guys gave us our beautiful Ukrainian flag with their signatures to pass on,” Zelenskyy said in the video. “We are not in an easy situation. The enemy is strengthening its army. Our people are braver and need stronger weapons. We’re going to take it from the boys to Congress, to the President of the United States. We are grateful for their support, but that’s not enough. It’s a hint – it’s not enough.”

Volodymyr FesenkoHead of the Kyiv-based think tank Penta Center said Zelenskyy’s visit to the US “should determine the course of the war – Zelenskyy dared to leave Ukraine for the first time and reckons he will be able to sustain Ukraine.” and possibly even strengthen it. US military and economic aid.”

Hanna Danylovich43, who lives and works as a scientist in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, welcomed the prospect of additional military assets and said: “There is a great desire and dream to speed up the removal of Russian evil from our country.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his country’s military leaders on Wednesday that Russia will achieve its stated goals in Ukraine and use the combat experience to strengthen its military. His Secretary of Defense Sergei Shoigusaid Russia’s military needs to be increased from the current 1 million to 1.5 million in light of the fighting in Ukraine.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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Callan Tansill

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