Making his first trip outside Ukraine since Russia invaded, Zelensky urged a joint session of Congress to continue support for the defense of his country.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine capped his visit to Washington by asking Congress to approve nearly $50 billion in additional aid to his country. Swift passage would not only stop Russian influence in the region, but preserve democracy as a whole, he said.
Addressing a joint session of Congress, Mr. Zelensky spoke for roughly 25 minutes, mixing doses of humor with pleas for the future safety and stability of Ukraine. He delivered the speech in English, giving it more impact than if it had been translated from Ukrainian.
“Your money is not charity,” Mr. Zelensky said. “It’s an investment.”
After his speech, which was warmly received by members on both sides of the aisle, Mr. Zelensky presented Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, with a Ukrainian flag that soldiers had signed. Ms. Pelosi gave Mr. Zelensky an American flag that had flown over the Capitol earlier in the day.
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After a two-hour meeting at the White House, President Biden told reporters at a joint news conference with Mr. Zelensky that the United States would continue to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Mr. Zelensky, asked what he would consider a fair way to end the war, said that he would not compromise the sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity of his country. He said Ukraine shared values with the United States and was fighting “for our common victory against this tyranny.”
“We will win and I really want to win together,” he said.
Mr. Biden said Mr. Zelensky’s visit underscored “the need to stand together through 2023,” suggesting the United States doesn’t believe the war will end anytime soon. “The American people have been with you every step of the way, and we will stay with you,” Mr. Biden said.
Earlier in the day, the secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said that the United States was sending Ukraine an additional $1.8 billion in military aid, including a Patriot missile battery, one of its most advanced air defense systems.
President Volodymyr Zelensky told Congress that the fight now raging for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, could “change the trajectory of our war for independence and for freedom.”
That battle has turned into one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, and as losses for both sides have mounted, Ukraine’s hold on the ravaged city has taken on a symbolism that outstrips its military significance. There are bumper stickers, artwork and T-shirts in shops across Ukraine with the slogan: “Bakhmut Holds.”
But in Washington on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky emphasized that holding was not enough. “To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold that holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannons and shells are needed,” he said.
Before his trip to Washington to ask for that increased support, Mr. Zelensky made an unannounced visit on Tuesday to Bakhmut to rally the soldiers there. It was perhaps his most daring visit to the front lines since Russia invaded Ukraine, and a demonstration of defiance in the face of Moscow’s ceaseless assault against the ravaged eastern city.
Despite months of Russian bombardments and waves of assault by formations from the Wagner Group, an infamous paramilitary organization that has helped lead the Kremlin’s war effort in parts of Ukraine, the city has remained in Ukrainian control.
The Ukrainian forces holding Bakhmut are from a mix of units, including the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade, that have been worn down by the nonstop Russian assaults. Other units relocated from southern Ukraine have arrived in recent weeks to bolster the defense of the city.
While Russian forces are digging in and establishing more fortified defensive positions across much of the 600-mile front, they have continued to assault Bakhmut from multiple directions.
Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut came as Ukrainian troops say they have pushed Russians out of some positions on the edge of the city, although the situation there is far from stable.
“Last year, 70,000 people lived here in Bakhmut, in this city, and now only a few civilians stay,” Mr. Zelensky told Congress. “Every inch of that land is soaked in blood, roaring guns sound every hour.”
He told Congress that the troops he met with in Bakhmut had given him a Ukrainian battle flag and asked that he bring it to Washington.
“Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united — Ukraine, America and the entire free world.”
Zelensky’s push for the next package of aid is a key element of his speech and one of the most important reasons he is in Washington today. “You can speed up our victory,” he says, a potentially strong argument for Republicans undecided about the spending bill before Congress.