UKRAINE: Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Wednesday that “against all odds, Ukraine is alive and kicking” and his country will “never surrender” its fight against Russia, urging Washington to speed up military assistance in an emotional speech before Congress as the war approaches its 11th month.
Zelenskiy told US legislators: “For the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannon and shells are needed.”
US Congress meeting
Zelenskiy addressed the US Congress on his first foreign trip since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While addressing Congress, he told legislators in the grand House of Representatives chamber that he hoped that they would prevail to support Ukraine on a bipartisan basis, a crucial point because Republicans are due to gain majority control of the House on January 3.
“Your money is not for charity,” Zelenskiy stated in a joint meeting of the US Senate and House of Representatives, adding that “it is an investment in democracy and global security.”
After a meeting with Democratic President Joe Biden at the White House, Zelenskiy’s speech had to win over House Republicans, who have shown growing unease about continuing to provide so much assistance to Ukraine.
In the nearly packed chamber, Zelenskiy was welcomed with a number of boisterous applauses. As he entered, three members raised a big Ukrainian flag.
“It is a great honour for me to be at the U.S. Congress and speak to you and all Americans,” Zelenskiy said. “We defeated Russia in the battle for the minds of the world,” he continued.
Zelenskiy joined a long list of world leaders who have spoken at joint sessions of the Senate and House.
This tradition dates back to Hawaiian King Kalakaua’s visit in 1874 and has featured almost legendary wartime visits by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in addition to kings, queens, and one pope.
Zelenskiy compared his country’s conflict with Moscow’s forces to the great battles of World War Two and even the American Revolution, and both house members and senators from both parties repeatedly rose to their feet to applaud certain passages of his speech in English, such as “Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.”
No signs of peace talks
Although Zelenskiy stated that he had discussed a 10-point Ukrainian peace plan with Biden, there are no signs that peace talks to end the war are taking place, and both Russia and Ukraine have expressed a determination to continue fighting.
“I’m happy that President Biden today endorsed our peace initiative. “Each of you here today, ladies and gentlemen, can help with implementation to make sure that American leadership continues to be strong, bipartisan, and bicameral,” Zelenskiy told the lawmakers.
After speaking with US Vice President Joe Biden, Zelensky emphasised that a “just peace” with Russia means no concessions on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
In reference to Russia, Biden said, “Americans are prepared to have us stand up to bullies.”
Zelenskiy’s address was first planned in October, according to a representative of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she met with Ruslan Stefanchuk, the head of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada.
Pelosi was in Zagreb, Croatia, for the First Parliamentary Summit of the International Crimea Platform during that time.
Zelenskiy arrived precisely 300 days after Russian troops invaded and amid increased rocket attacks that have left Ukrainian cities in ruins.
Zelensky was aware that the Senate and House have the power to control America’s financial resources.
His timing was ideal since Congress is about to approve an additional $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic aid to Ukraine, on top of the almost $50 billion already sent there this year.
The optics of Zelenskiy’s welcome as a defender of democracy carried a far deeper message than only providing military aid. It was intended to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States and its NATO partners are still firmly committed to supporting Ukraine, despite recent indications of dissatisfaction among some Republican senators over the mounting expense.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, asserted that his country was not to blame for the conflict, blaming “the policy of third countries.”