In one of many defining moments from Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s go to to Washington, after delivering a speech to Congress, he rotated to face Nancy Pelosi, the Home speaker, handed her a flag signed by the troopers of Bakhmut on the entrance traces in Donbas and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
The Ukrainian president had simply given a searing address to a joint session of Congress to each thank the US for its assist and plead for the assistance to maintain coming. After receiving a collection of standing ovations, he walked away from the chamber with the American flag that had flown above the Capitol constructing on Wednesday, a present from Pelosi.
“We stand, we struggle and we are going to win as a result of we’re united,” Zelenskyy mentioned. “Ukraine, America and the complete free world.”
The 44-year-old Ukrainian president was in Washington for only a few hours on Wednesday, from the early afternoon to night, however the occasion was monumental as a result of Zelenskyy had not left his nation since Russia’s invasion in late February.
Zelenskyy will return residence with new commitments from Washington, together with Patriot missiles and nearly $2bn in new assist. However he appeared conscious that the winds in Washington may shift and made an emotional and private enchantment to lawmakers to maintain the assist flowing.
His first cease was on the White Home, the place he met US president Joe Biden within the Oval Workplace. Their relationship had moments of stress within the run-up to the invasion and even afterwards as Zelenskyy has constantly pressed for extra aggressive navy assist. Their bonhomie on Wednesday appeared real, although factors of friction stay.
“We’ll stick with you for so long as it takes. What you’re doing, what you’ve gotten achieved, it issues not simply to Ukraine however to the complete world,” Biden mentioned, after noting to Zelenskyy, who’s Jewish, that it was the fourth night time of Hanukkah. “Collectively, I’ve little doubt we’ll maintain the flame of liberty burning vibrant, and the sunshine will stay and prevail over the darkness.”
Whereas Zelenskyy was on American soil, Biden introduced that the US would offer Ukraine with a further $1.85bn in navy help, together with a battery of Patriot air defence missiles to assist it fend off increasingly brutal Russian strikes on targets together with crucial infrastructure.
The timing was particularly essential as a result of Congress was making ready to vote on a further $45bn in navy, financial and humanitarian assist for Ukraine this week. Not solely did Zelenskyy wish to assist get the laws over the end line, he additionally wanted to make the case for why that sort of assist wanted to proceed after extra sceptical Republicans take management of the Home of Representatives in January.
“This battle can’t be frozen or postponed. It can’t be ignored,” Zelenskyy mentioned. “This wrestle will outline in what world our youngsters and grandchildren will stay.”
Zelenskyy’s remarks included a vow that Ukraine would “maintain its traces and by no means give up” and that there may very well be “no compromises” in ending the warfare. His look evoked comparisons to an deal with to members of Congress by UK prime minister Winston Churchill through the second world warfare in 1941. Pelosi famous that her father was a member of Congress on the time and attended Churchill’s speech.
Democrats applauded most enthusiastically for the Ukrainian president. Some even wore apparel in blue and yellow, Ukraine’s nationwide colors.
All through his appearances, Zelenskyy invoked the struggling of strange Ukrainian folks and households disrupted or separated by the warfare, together with those that had misplaced family members within the preventing. As many Individuals had been making ready to have a good time Christmas, he requested them to consider Ukrainians who would most likely accomplish that by candlelight.
“Not as a result of it’s extra romantic, no, however as a result of there can be no electrical energy. Tens of millions gained’t have neither heating, no operating water. All of this would be the results of Russian missile and drone assaults on our vitality infrastructure. However we don’t complain,” Zelenskyy mentioned.
After the speech, simply outdoors the Home flooring, Abigail Spanberger, a Democratic lawmaker from Virginia, mentioned Zelenskyy’s direct appeals to Individuals — together with references to US battles for freedom and the “visualisation” of what Ukrainians had been enduring — had been “actually helpful”.
She added that the Ukrainian president had confirmed that his nation deserved further assist. “They’ve exceeded all expectations or ideas of the place this warfare would possibly go,” she mentioned, “and I feel that they’ve demonstrated that each little bit of assist we give them on this struggle, they utilise it as optimally as they presumably can.”
Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky, was effusive. “Volodymyr Zelenskyy has impressed his countrymen to struggle, as he mentioned tonight, ‘towards all odds,’ in defiance of tyranny and in defence of freedom. In so doing, he has additionally impressed and rallied all who stand in assist of freedom — in america, in Europe and around the globe,” he mentioned in a press release to the Monetary Instances. “The reason for the Ukrainian folks is the reason for freedom, and since 1776, it has been our trigger as properly.”
Some Republicans, nonetheless, didn’t present up, together with lawmakers near former president Donald Trump similar to Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Ralph Norman, a Home member from South Carolina, mentioned Zelenskyy’s phrases wouldn’t change his opposition to further spending for Ukraine and determined to not attend.
Donald Trump Jr, the previous president’s son, mocked Zelenskyy on Twitter, saying he was “mainly an ungrateful worldwide welfare queen”.
Different pro-Trump lawmakers did flip up, together with Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who generally sat silent whereas their colleagues cheered. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican chief within the Home, mentioned Zelenskyy’s speech was “good” regardless that he wouldn’t give Ukraine a “clean cheque”.
Natalie Jaresko, the previous finance minister of Ukraine who joined a bunch of Ukrainian-Individuals within the Home gallery to observe the speech and sometimes chanted “slava Ukraini” — “glory to Ukraine” — mentioned it had been essential for Zelenskyy to make a direct reference to US lawmakers.
“I feel after 300 days of warfare, and specifically, after the final two months of actually heavy, heavy bombings, it’s extra necessary than ever for him to make private contact with Congress to guarantee them that he’s grateful, the Ukrainian persons are terribly grateful, however that their assist is constant to grow to be ever extra necessary,” she mentioned.