U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House on Dec. 21, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Zelensky met with President Biden on his first known trip outside of Ukraine since the Russian invasion. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden declared Wednesday that Ukraine will “never stand alone” as he welcomed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for an historic U.S. visit — a rare departure from Zelenskyy’s monthslong fight to defend his country from deadly Russian shelling and targeting of civilian infrastructure.
The wartime Ukrainian leader met Biden at the White House, marking his first known trip outside Ukraine’s borders since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in February. Later in the day, Zelenskyy met with congressional leaders and was set to give an address to Congress.
“We understand in our bones that Ukraine’s fight is part of something much bigger,” Biden said. “The American people know that if we stand by in the face of such blatant attacks on liberty and democracy, and the core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the world would surely face worse consequences.”
The visit came as the United States announced $1.85 billion in additional weapons and security assistance, including a coveted air defense system, and as Congress is on the cusp of approving another $45 billion in aid for Ukraine as part of its year-end omnibus spending package.
The two leaders delivered remarks and addressed reporters for just under an hour at a joint press conference in the East Room, both striking a friendly tone punctuated by bits of humor and some laughter.
“We fight for our common victory against this tyranny,” Zelenskyy said as he briefly spoke in English. “I really want to win together … Not want, sorry, I’m sure.”
The Ukrainian leader, dressed in his signature army green often seen during his frequent wartime video addresses, said he wanted to travel to the United States to “forward words of thanks to the people of America, people who do so much for Ukraine.”
The administration also announced on Wednesday a $374 million package from the U.S. Agency for International Development for food and cash assistance as Ukrainians face brutal winter temperatures and in some areas fuel shortages and electricity outages as Russia targets heating and electrical systems as temperatures plunge.
Zelenskyy arrived at the White House just after 2 p.m. EST and delivered opening remarks alongside Biden in the Oval Office before a closed-door bilateral meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Zelenskyy presented Biden with a military merit medal from a captain on the front lines in Bakhmut, a small city in Ukraine’s Donetsk region pummeled by five months of intense fighting and shelling.
The latest tranche of weapons and artillery assistance, announced by Pentagon officials Wednesday, will deliver one Patriot air defense battery and munitions, a system the U.S. showed reluctance to give during the earlier months of the conflict.
The weapons package — the 28th since August 2021 — will also include ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, armored vehicles, grenade launchers and small artillery.
The funds bring the U.S. total to $21.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.
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