Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will make a surprise visit to the White House on Wednesday when President Joe Biden is expected to announce an additional $2 billion in military assistance for the war-torn country, administration officials said.
The visit to Washington, D.C., is the second by the Ukrainian president but his first international trip since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Wednesday also marks the 300th day of the ongoing war, and officials said Zelensky’s presence at the White House will underscore the U.S. commitment to the European county in its fight against the Kremlin.
“Russia expected that this war would be quick work, that they would be in Kyiv and dominating the country within a matter of days. But here we are 300 days later, and Ukraine stands, Kyiv stands, the Ukrainian people stand,” a senior administration official said Tuesday evening in a call with reporters about the surprise trip.
Early Wednesday, Zelensky confirmed on Twitter that he had departed for the United States.
“On my way to the U.S. to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of [Ukraine],” he said.
Zelensky is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Biden at the White House after his arrival before speaking to the press and then giving an address to a joint session of Congress. A few hours after landing in Washington, D.C., Zelensky will be retuning to Ukraine.
Officials said the two leaders during their meeting will discuss in-depth battlefield strategies as well as the military equipment and training that the United States and its allies will continue to provide Ukraine.
Also to be discussed are sanctions and export controls on Russia as well as Ukraine’s economic and energy sector and humanitarian needs.
“Unfortunately, because Russia has shown no interest in being willing to end this brutal war, just as they were unwilling to engage in good-faith diplomatic efforts to avert this conflict in the first place, we know that in the days ahead the conflict will continue, the winter will be hard and we will continue day in, day out to provide critical support to the Ukrainian people,” the senior official said.
The trip comes as Russia has been bombarding civilian centers and infrastructure since suffering a serious of humiliating defeats in the summer that saw its forces relinquish once occupied land back to Kyiv.
The attacks on civilian infrastructure have decimated energy capabilities in the country, raising concerns for the public as the temperature continues to drop as Europe enters winter.
The International Rescue Committee, which responds to humanitarian crises, on Tuesday warned that more than 25% of internally displaced people in Ukraine lack access to sufficient heating. Another 61% of Ukrainians reported their homes were in need of repair.
The package of U.S. military aid to be officially announced Wednesday is to include a Patriot missile battery, the most advanced weapons system yet to be delivered to Ukraine amid the war, which the senior administration official said will be “a critical asset” in defending the country’s civilian infrastructure.
National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems and other weapons systems are to be included in the package along with Stinger missiles and counter-drone equipment.
Zelensky is also to address Congress as lawmakers are working to pass an omnibus spending bill that the Biden administration expects will include more than $40 billion in funding for Ukraine.
The United States has already given Ukraine more than $19 billion in security assistance since Russia invaded the country.
The senior Biden official told reporters that Zelensky was “very keen” to make his first visit to the United States, and that the two leaders began planning the trip on Dec. 11 with the White House formally inviting the European president on Dec. 14.
Zelensky’s office accepted the invitation on Friday with the trip being confirmed on Sunday, the officials said.
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