Ukraine’s Zelenskyy set to visit Washington in 1st overseas trip of war: reports – National


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is preparing to visit Washington on Wednesday, according to three Associated Press sources, in his first known trip outside the country since Russia’s invasion began in February.

Two congressional sources and one person familiar with the matter confirmed plans for the visit. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the highly sensitive nature of the trip. They said Zelenskyy’s visit, while expected, could still be called off at the last minute due to security concerns.

Reuters also confirmed details of the plans, citing a source familiar with the planning.

The visit to Washington is set to include an address to Congress on Capitol Hill and a meeting with President Joe Biden. It comes as lawmakers are set to vote on a year-end spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and as the U.S. prepares to send Patriot surface-to-air missiles to the country to help stave off Russia’s invasion.

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Zelenskyy visits Ukraine’s Bakhmut, site of ‘fierce battles’ with Russia

The latest tranche of U.S. funding would be the biggest American infusion of assistance yet to Ukraine, above even Biden’s $37 billion emergency request, and would ensure that funding flows to the war effort for months to come.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi encouraged lawmakers to be on hand for Wednesday evening’s session.

“We are ending a very special session of the 117th Congress with legislation that makes progress for the American people as well as support for our Democracy,” Pelosi wrote Tuesday in a letter to colleagues. “Please be present for a very special focus on democracy Wednesday night.”

Zelenskyy has — almost daily — addressed various parliaments and international organizations by video and he has sent his wife to foreign capitals to drum up assistance. The visit comes a day after he made a daring and dangerous trip to what he called the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) front line, the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province.


Click to play video: 'Zelenskyy and ‘spirit of Ukraine’ named Time’s person of the year'


Zelenskyy and ‘spirit of Ukraine’ named Time’s person of the year


In a video released by his office from the Bakhmut visit, Zelenskyy was handed a Ukrainian flag and alluded to delivering it to U.S. leaders.

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“The guys handed over our beautiful Ukrainian flag with their signatures for us to pass on,” Zelenskyy said in the video. “We are not in an easy situation. The enemy is increasing its army. Our people are braver and need more powerful weapons. We will pass it on from the boys to the Congress, to the president of the United States. We are grateful for their support, but it is not enough. It is a hint — it is not enough.”

U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, told CBS News there were ongoing efforts to bring Zelenskiy to the Capitol on Wednesday and to have him address Congress.

“We’d be very honored to have him visit. I’m amazed he can make it in view of the situation. It’d be a great gift to have him at the Capitol. We’re working with the leadership to be helpful. We personally understand if he cannot make it last minute,” Kaptur was quoted as saying by CBS News.

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On Wednesday, the U.S. was also set to announce that it will send $1.8 billion in military aid to Ukraine in a major package that will for the first time include a Patriot missile battery and precision guided bombs for its fighter jets, U.S. officials said.

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The aid signals an expansion by the U.S. in the kinds of advanced weaponry it will send to Ukraine to bolster its air defenses against what has been an increasing barrage of Russian missiles in recent weeks. The package will include about $1 billion in weapons from Pentagon stocks and $800 million in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, officials said.

The decision to send the Patriot battery comes despite threats from Russia’s Foreign Ministry that the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be considered a provocative step and that the Patriot and any crews accompanying it would be a legitimate target for Moscow’s military.

It’s not clear exactly when the Patriot would arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, since U.S. troops will have to train Ukrainian forces on how to use the high-tech system. The training could take several weeks, and is expected to be done in Germany. To date, all training of Ukraine’s forces by the U.S. and its Western allies has taken place in European countries.

Also included in the package will be an undisclosed number of Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits, or JDAMs. The kits will be used to modify massive bombs by adding tail fins and precision navigation systems so that rather than being simply dropped from a fighter jet onto a target, they can be released and guided to a target.

—With additional files from Reuters and Global News

&copy 2022 The Canadian Press





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