In his first journey outside of Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is traveling to Washington to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and address Congress.
Due to security concerns, planning for Zelenskyy’s visit was cloaked in secrecy, but U.S. officials confirmed the trip Tuesday night.
“On my way to the United States to boost Ukraine’s resilience and defense capabilities. In particular, President Trump and I will discuss collaboration between the United States and Ukraine “Zelensky tweeted in the early hours of Wednesday morning. In addition to delivering a speech at the Congress, I will have a number of bilateral meetings.
Mr. Biden will welcome Zelenskyy to the White House at 2:00 p.m., and the two will have a press conference together at 4:30 p.m. Zelenskyy will next address a joint session of Congress at 7:30 p.m., according to the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
A senior administration official stated that Vice President Biden will announce a new aid package for Ukraine worth “nearly $2 billion” that will include, for the first time, a Patriot missile battery, which the official described as “crucial to defend the Ukrainian people against Russia’s barbaric attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.” The U.S. will teach Ukrainian personnel on how to operate the Patriot missile battery in a third country, according to the official.
Zelenskyy’s visit occurs at a time when Russia has intensified attacks on vital Ukrainian infrastructure as winter approaches, with Russian forces waging one of the greatest assaults on the city of Kyiv since the conflict began last week.
In addition, the Ukrainian president’s address to Congress coincides with U.S. lawmakers’ efforts to enact a $1.7 trillion budget measure that contains over $45 billion in military, humanitarian, and economic support for Ukraine. It would be one of the last pieces of legislation completed by the current Congress, and senators were rushing to pass the omnibus bill before a Friday deadline to prevent a government shutdown.
The almost $45 billion earmarked for Ukraine is greater than the $37.7 billion requested by the White House in November and, if approved by Congress, would be the latest installment of emergency aid granted to Ukraine as it continues to confront Russia.
Since the invasion, lawmakers have approved more than $65 billion in aid to Ukraine, despite opposition from some House Republicans to continued direct support. This new proposal would increase U.S. aid to above $100 billion.