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Ukraine: Zelenskyy arrives in Washington for war talks

September 21, 2023

Zelenskyy's visit comes as many conservative Republicans are growing skeptical of US aid to Ukraine. Kyiv has been heavily reliant on weapons assistance from the West as it staves off Russia's invasion.

The room where Zelenskyy will meet US lawmakers, with a framed flag signed by Ukrainian fighters in Bakhmut
Zelenskyy is expected to hold in depth talks with lawmakers as American aid to Ukraine becomes another tense issue in the highly polarized US Image: Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington DC on Thursday, where he is expected to meet US President Joe Biden, along with lawmakers and political leaders. 

Zelenskyy addresses lawmakers

The Ukrainian president addressed lawmakers from the lower chamber of Congress during his visit, sometimes facing probing questions about the pace of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Lawmakers particularly quizzed Zelenskyy on Ukraine's strategy for victory.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, of the Republican Party, declined Zelenskyy's request for a joint session of Congress, which the president had been granted during an earlier visit to Washington. McCarthy said there was no time for such a session on short notice.

Zelenskyy also spoke with military leaders at the Pentagon and was greeted by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin there. However, the meeting lacked the usual ceremonial fanfare that is typical of a high-level visit, the Associated Press news agency said.

What's on the agenda?

"Important meetings ahead," Zelenskyy posted on social media. "Last night, Russia launched another mass missile attack on Ukraine. I thank all of our rescuers for their immediate response."

"We must work together to fully deprive Russia of its terrorist potential," the Ukrainian leader added. "At my meetings, air defense will be among top priorities."  

Zelenskyy will hold talks with Biden at the White House amid his push for fresh US assistance. 


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with US House of Representatives Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (C)
Zelenskyy is on his second trip to Washington since Russia launched the war in UkraineImage: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans becoming skeptical about more US aid

Zelenskyy's visit comes as many conservative Republicans are growing wary of continued US aid to Ukraine. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently called for "accountability" regarding the money already earmarked for Kyiv.

Ukraine has been heavily dependent on Western aid as it fights back against Russia's invasion. On Tuesday, Biden is a staunch supporter of Ukraine and told the UN General Assembly that the world must stick with Kyiv amid the prolonged conflict.

Biden: 'We must stand up to this naked aggression'

Yet, Biden does not have the final say on whether the US will grant more aid to Ukraine. Under the US Constitution, Congress has the power to control government spending, which is known as the "Power of the Purse."       

The visit also comes ahead of the looming 2024 presidential election. Former Republican President Donald Trump is again running for the White House and has suggested that the US provides too much support. 

Trump has also frequently claimed that he could end the war in 24 hours without providing concrete details on the strategy. Zelenskyy recently told US outlet CNN that Trump "can publicly share his idea now," with the Ukrainian leader saying the plan cannot involve his country giving up territory to Russia.     

wd/msh (AFP, AP)