Zelensky takes battle to White House: he and Olena meet Joe and Jill

Zelensky takes battle for more funds and weapons to the White House: Ukrainian leader hints to Biden he wants more missiles in pivotal talks as Republicans refuse to budge on $24B in aid

  • Zelensky met lawmakers on Capitol Hill, military leaders at the Pentagon and President Biden at the White House
  • He hinted to Biden he’d like more air defense missiles  
  • READ MORE: Zelensky holds secret NYC meeting with private equity bosses at JPMorgan, Google and Blackstone 

Volodymyr Zelensky brought his battle for more funds and weapons to the White House, hinting to President Joe Biden he wants more missiles as conservative Republicans are refusing to budge on aid to the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president spent Thursday morning on Capitol Hill, lobbying lawmakers for their support. But far-right GOP lawmakers in the House are stiffling aid even as many GOP senators support sending more funds to Kyiv.

In the Oval Office, Zelensky, speaking in English from note cards, said he had frank conversations with members of Congress. He said he looked forward to discussion military support from the U.S. with Biden ‘with a special emphasis on air.’ 

‘When it comes to weapons we will discuss everything with a special emphasis on air defense,’ the Ukrainian president said.  

Zelensky’s wish list includes ATACMS, long-range tactical missiles that Kyiv has been asking for to hit Russian targets in the deep rear of the fight.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said ahead of Zelensky’s arrival at the White House that President Biden would announce a tranche ‘of military assistance today including significant air defense capabilities to help Ukraine.’

That will include additional ammunition for U.S. provided HIMAR systems, anti-armor capabilities, artillery, and ammunition. But it will not include the ATACMS. The first abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine next week, Biden announced.

‘We also focused on strengthening Ukraine’s air defense capabilities to protect the critical infrastructure,’ Biden said. 

Zelensky thanked Biden for ‘Very productive, strong negotiations. And today we have some important results.’

‘It has what our soldiers need now,’ he said.  

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska at the South Portico of the White House

President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office

Jill Biden embraces Olena Zelenska while President Joe Biden greets President Volodymyr Zelensky at their arrival at the White House

Still, Zelensky and his wife Olena got a warm welcome on the South Lawn from Joe and Jill Biden. Hugs were exchanged and the Bidens rolled out the red carpet for the Ukrainian president and first lady.

President Biden Ukraine a ‘partner’ and said the US is ‘formalizing our commitment to Ukraine’s long-term security alongside the G7 and with other partners.’

‘We’re supporting a just and lasting peace, one that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,’ he said. 

The pressure is on Zelensky, who packed his visit to Washington DC with stops on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the White House. 

The Biden administration is pushing for Congress to authorize an additional $24 billion in aid for the Ukraine. 

Zelensky met with lawmakers on Thursday in his battle to persuade skeptical Republicans in Congress to keep sending aid.

‘If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war,’ Zelensky said, as recounted by Senator Chuck Schumer.

The Ukrainian President urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to ‘stay strong’ and support Kyiv after Poland yanked its weapons supply during one of Russia’s most brutal missile campaigns. Warsaw said it would now only supply the already-promised weapons.

Tensions have risen between the two neighboring countries although Zelensky tried to fan down the flames. 

Despite criticizing Poland at the UN on Wednesday, Zelensky sounded a more conciliatory note when he spoke in the Oval Office on Thursday.

‘I want to thank the Polish people, Polish society for their support. That’s it,’ he said. 

On Thursday morning, Zelensky met the speaker, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and other committee chairs and ranking members on the first floor of the Capitol. 

McCarthy, notably, didn’t come out to greet the Ukrainian leaders. Jeffries met Zelensky at the Capitol entrance and walked him to the meeting site. 

After the meeting, McCarthy said he remains noncommittal about the $24 billion aid package to Ukraine but said Zelensky answered many of lawmakers’ questions on the status of the war. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks with U.S. President Joe Biden down the colonnade to the Oval Office during a visit to the White House 

Volodymyr Zelensky met House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday in his battle to persuade skeptical Republicans to keep sending aid

The Ukrainian President urged Capitol Hill lawmakers to ‘stay strong’ and support Kyiv after Poland yanked its weapons supply during one of Russia’s most brutal missile campaigns

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (L) join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (2nd R) and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, in a wreath laying ceremony at the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House

Zelensky is requesting more air defense help from the Biden administration 

McCarthy and Zelensky met behind closed doors. 

Zelensky told lawmakers: ‘When this war started, you said to me, Ukraine, stay unified and stay strong. I’m coming back and saying to the United States: stay unified and stay strong.’ 

Before his visit, Zelensky asked to deliver another joint address to Congress, as he did last December, Punchbowl News reported, but Speaker Kevin McCarthy denied the request.

‘Zelensky asked us for a Joint Session and we just didn’t have time,’ McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, pointing out the Ukrainian president had already addressed Congress. Zelensky spoke to a joint session in December when Nancy Pelosi was still speaker.

Congress has already authorized more than $110 billion to Kyiv since Vladimir Putin’s invasion, and some members of the GOP have warned the White House they will oppose Biden’s request to send another $24 billion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is welcomed to the Capitol by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) walk out of the Old Senate Chamber following a meeting with senators

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the Pentagon

Ukraine-Poland Dispute tied to grain bans 

Tensions have risen between Ukraine and Poland, its neighbor and first ally, over grain shipments.

Several European Union nations put a ban on Ukrainian grain earlier this to protect their own farmers. 

Last week, the EU announced plans to suspend the ban. But three countries – Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – said they woudl keep it.

Ukraine protested and filed lawsuits against all three countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the ban in his address to the UN, saying ‘it is alarming to see how some in Europe, some of our friends in Europe, play out solidarity in a political theater – making a thriller from the grain.’

He accused them of aiding Moscow. Poland condemned the remarks and summoned its ambassador from Ukraine. 

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul said Zelensky told lawmakers ‘he’s winning’ the war.

He said Zelensky told them he needs air cover and long-range artillery for his soldiers. 

Zelensky is making his plea for support as Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland, announced it will no longer provide weapons to Kyiv. 

‘We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,’ Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv, sparked by Poland’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports to protect the interests of its farmers, have intensified in recent days. 

Poland was one Ukraine’s earliest and staunchest allies after Russia invaded. It has taken in over a million refugees and been Kyiv’s biggest supplier of weapons.

Poland has delivered hundreds of Soviet-era tanks and armored personnel carriers for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as 14 MiG-29 fighter jets.

Warsaw’s government spokesman Piotr Mueller said Thursday that Poland ‘only carries out previously agreed supplies of ammunition and weapons, including those resulting from the contracts signed with Ukraine.’ 

Asked whether Warsaw would choose not to sign new contracts for delivering arms to Kyiv, Mueller declined to answer. 

In the US, Zelensky’s focus is on House Republicans, who have made clear they oppose more funding for the Ukraine. 

McCarthy’s stop-gap resolution to keep the government running while lawmakers negotiate a full budget deal lacks any funding for Kyiv. 

President Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska place flowers at the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is escorted by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the Capitol

Senator Chris Murphy posted a photo of Zelensky’s private meeting with senators

President Zelensky inside the Old Senate Chamber where he’s meeting with senators

A framed flag signed by front-line Ukrainian fighters in Bakhmut and presented to the U.S. Congress in 2022, sits at one end of the table where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will meet privately with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other leaders

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has questioned U.S. funding for Ukraine

President Zelensky arrived on Capitol Hill surrounded by security

And now 29 GOP lawmakers wrote to the Biden’s budget chief to express their concerns about how much has already been given to the Ukraine – $100 billion – and to complain the Biden administration  supports an ‘open-ended commitment’ to the country.

They argue Americans need more information on the war effort.

‘How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were 6 months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan?’ they write.  

McCarthy has made similar comments.

‘Was Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don’t think so. I have questions for where’s the accountability on the money we’ve already spent? What is this the plan for victory?’ he said to reporters on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell does support funding Ukraine’s war effort although some conservatives in the upper chamber think the U.S. has done enough to help Kyiv.

McConnell, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, escorted Zelensky into his meeting with senators.  

The Biden administration continues to push for more funding. Zelensky will cap off his visit to Washington with a meeting in the Oval Office. 

Zelensky’s visit comes at a ‘critical time, as Russia is reaching out’ to countries like North Korea and Iran, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday. 

Biden can get a ‘battlefield perspective,’ when he meets with Zelensky in the Oval Office, Kirby noted. 

President Zelensky greets Pentagon employees after laying a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial

Russian President Vladimir Putin has upped his assault on Ukraine

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky on Capitol Hill with Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova

While Zelensky was out of the country, Russia upped its aerial campaign, damaging energy facilities and causing power outages in several region.

Moscow targeted Lviv in the west, near the border with Poland, and Kharkiv, close to Ukraine’s eastern front lines, as well as Kyiv, Cherkasy and Rivne. 

Zelensky arrives in Washington after addressing the UN General Assembly as part of the body’s annual meeting.

He also addressed the U.N. Security Council, where he got tough, accusing it of inaction on Russia’s invasion of his country.

‘Most of the world recognizes the truth about this war,’ Zelensky said.

‘We should recognize that the U.N. finds itself in a deadlock on the matters of aggression,’ he noted.

Source: Read Full Article