Washington — President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy are holding a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, presenting a united front against Russia as the U.S. prepares to send billions of dollars more in military aid to bolster Ukrainian forces.
“It’s important for the American people and for the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023,” Mr. Biden said, standing next to Zelenskyy in the White House East Room.
The visit is the Ukrainian leader’s first known trip outside his country in the 300 days since the Russian invasion began.
Mr. Biden rolled out the red carpet for his Ukrainian counterpart, who wore an olive-green sweatshirt, cargo pants and boots. The two held a meeting in the Oval Office, where Mr. Biden said the U.S. “stands with the great people of Ukraine” and called Zelenskyy a “great leader.”
Zelenskyy is heading to Capitol Hill after leaving the White House, where he willat 7:30 p.m.
Planning for the trip was cloaked in secrecy given the extraordinary security concerns that come with a wartime leader traveling outside his country.
Zelenskyy told reporters it was a “great honor” to be welcomed to the White House, and expressed his appreciation “from my heart, from the hearts of Ukrainians, all Ukrainians” for Mr. Biden’s “support and leadership.”
In a moment that seemed to catch Mr. Biden off guard, Zelenskyy presented him with a combat medal that a Ukrainian captain fighting on the front lines had given him. “He’s very brave and he said give it to a very brave president,” Zelenskyy said, noting that the captain commands a unit using a weapons system provided by the U.S.
Shortly before Zelenskyy arrived, the State Department unveiled a new military aid package for Ukraine worth $1.85 billion, bringing the total military aid sent to Ukraine to $22 billion. In a first, the U.S. is sending the Ukrainians aa sophisticated air defense system that can repel Russian missiles and aircraft. The new package also includes hundred of thousands of mortars and artillery shells, dozens of vehicles and specialized kits that greatly enhance the effectiveness and accuracy of bombs dropped from fighter jets.
“We’re going to continue to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, particularly air defense,” Mr. Biden said. “And that’s why we’re going to be providing Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery and training your forces to be able to accurately use it.”
Zelenskyy’s visit comes as Russia has ramped up strikes against critical Ukrainian infrastructure as winter sets in, with Russian forces last week launching one of the largest assaults on the capital of Kyiv since the war began.
The Ukrainian president’s speech to Congress also comes as U.S. lawmakers work to passthat includes nearly $45 billion in military, humanitarian and economic assistance for Ukraine. The measure would be one of the final pieces of legislation passed by the current Congress, and lawmakers were moving with urgency to clear the omnibus bill before a Friday deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.
The roughly $45 billion included for Ukraine is higher than the $37.7 billionin November and, if approved by Congress, would be the latest tranche of emergency assistance provided to Ukraine as it continues to fight Russia.
Lawmakers have allocated more than $65 billion in total aid, which includes financial and humanitarian assistance, to Ukraine since the invasion, though some House Republicans have expressed opposition to continuing direct funding to the country. This new package would bring U.S. assistance to over $100 billion.