Zelensky Arrives in the US to Meet With Biden: Live Updates

WASHINGTON — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine arrived at the White House Wednesday for a show of solidarity with President Biden and a plea for continued support from his American allies as his country digs in for a long, cold winter of war.

Seated in front of a roaring fire in the Oval Office and speaking in halting English, Mr. Zelensky offered “all my appreciations, from my heart, from the heart of all Ukrainians” for American support as his forces battle Russian invaders.

Mr. Biden told Mr. Zelensky that his people “inspire the world” and he blamed Russian President Vladimir V. Putin for trying to “use winter as a weapon” by attacking civilian targets that provide electricity and heat to millions of people. Mr Biden pledged continued support for “the great people of Ukraine.”

Mr. Zelensky presented Mr. Biden with a cross for military merit award that he was given by a soldier on the front lines in Ukraine. The soldier, a captain, said Mr. Zelensky should give it to the “very brave president” who had saved many lives in his country.

“Undeserved, but much appreciated,” Mr. Biden replied.

Just moments before, Mr. Biden welcomed his Ukrainian counterpart in a ceremony on the South Lawn for what officials said would be two hours of closed-door meetings in which the leaders will reaffirm their determination to defend Ukraine against what they have called an illegal invasion by Russian forces that began in February.

Mr. Zelensky’s visit to the capital of his most powerful benefactor — kept secret until the eve of his arrival for security reasons — is a dramatic show of confidence by Ukraine’s leader, who had not left his country since President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia began his assault 300 days ago.

But it comes at a moment that hope for peace seems distant, as both sides gird for months of continued fighting. In Russia, officials warned that deliveries of new US weapons will lead “to an aggravation of the conflict” and Mr. Putin vowed that his government will provide “everything that the army asks for — everything” in its search for conquest.

Wednesday’s one-day trip to Washington is designed as a thank you, a victory lap, and a sales pitch all at once. As he has done since the beginning, Mr. Zelensky intends to be blunt with Mr. Biden and, later, with members of Congress during a speech on Capitol Hill. He is expected to say that his country cannot survive without billions of dollars worth of sophisticated American war equipment.

“President Zelensky’s visit here is at least partially, maybe primarily, designed to bolster that support and rejuvenate the enthusiasm for Ukraine’s success,” said William B. Taylor, Jr., who served as ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. “That is all going to be necessary for the Ukrainians to be able to pre-empt a Russian offensive.”

Mr. Zelensky is certain to get some, but not all, of what he wants. Congress is just days away from approval of almost $50 billion in additional security and economic assistance for Ukraine. The State Department has announced the delivery of a Patriot missile battery to help Ukraine defend against attacks from the sky, but the administration is still refusing longer range weapons that could strike deep into Russia and potentially draw the United States into direct conflict with Mr. Putin and his military.

For Mr. Biden, the highly-orchestrated visit is an opportunity to remind Americans of why he has committed the United States’ treasury — though not its soldiers — to defending the borders of a country a continent away. It is, he will say, the only way to ensure the rights of each country to maintain its sovereignty in the face of blatant violations of international law.

That decision has not come without sacrifices and political costs for Mr. Biden, who rightly predicted before the war started that Americans would suffer economic consequences as the impacts of the first war in Europe in decades rippled across the world. Gas and food prices spiked, helping to send inflation soaring in the United States and elsewhere.

Now, after rallying dozens of nations to oppose Russia’s invasion, Mr. Biden finds himself needing to hold that coalition together for longer than anyone inside the White House imagined at the start of the war. And he faces a concerted effort by Mr. Putin to break the alliance by restricting energy resources and attacking civilian areas in Ukraine.

“The most important part of this visit might be to combat Putin’s belief that time is on his side in the war,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Reporting was contributed by Emily Cochrane in Washington, Anton Troianovski in Berlin and Andrew E. Kramer in Kyiv.

Written by trendingatoz

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