Zelensky drums up Ukraine support in "great dialogue" with leaders in Washigton

Washington DC - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Washington on Thursday and said he had a "great dialogue" with US senators and House Representatives. He also expressed his gratefulness for US support, as things looked rougher for his country's prospects in the Republican-controlled House.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (l.) welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon on Thursday.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (l.) welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Pentagon on Thursday.  © ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

After another overnight wave of deadly missile attacks on his country, Zelensky said on social media early Thursday that he and his wife had "arrived in Washington, DC" for his second wartime visit, and that air defenses were among his top priorities in the US capital.

"We have a great dialogue ... and we're thankful to you, the journalists, the senators for helping us, supporting us," Zelensky said after meeting with members of the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

"We spoke about so many details," he said, but did not elaborate.

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However, CNN reported that Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had blocked a Zelensky address to a joint session of the House and Senate.

"We don't have time for a joint session," the broadcaster quoted the Republican as saying.

In December, the Ukrainian president was received like a hero when he addressed a joint session and came away with a military package worth $1.85 billion - including the powerful Patriot air defense system.

But House Republicans are in the midst of a vicious battle over the federal budget, with signs that McCarthy does not have the right-wing faction of his party under control. Many commentators have predicted that the US government will shut down at the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

Zelensky is also meeting with President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The US president and First Lady Jill Biden will greet Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska at the White House, before the two leaders have head-to-head talks in the Oval Office, according to US officials.

"The president will be talking to President Zelensky about his needs and about how the United States will continue to meet those needs," they said. He has some specific requests for military equipment - especially ATACMS missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometers.

But the mood in Washington has changed since his visit late last year.

Zelensky meets with Congress to find more help for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (c.) met with House of Representatives Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (l.) at the US Capitol in Washington DC on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (c.) met with House of Representatives Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (l.) at the US Capitol in Washington DC on Thursday.  © Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, the US says it has provided more than $43 billion in military aid to Kyiv - far more than any other country. There has also been extensive economic aid.

But since January, Republicans have had a small majority in the House and there is now considerable unease among their conservative ranks about whether the US should continue to pump money on a grand scale into a war which has no end in sight.

Zelensky arrives fresh from the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, where he urged the world to stand firm with Ukraine against Russia's "genocide."

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He asked Americans to keep up their support, which has seen Washington pump more than $43 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia's February 2022 invasion.

"We are on the finishing line," he told CNN on Tuesday.

Biden, speaking Tuesday at the UN, warned against abandoning Ukraine. "Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence," he said.

Cover photo: ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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