US confirms Ukrainian president’s plans to visit Washington on Wednesday
Dec 21, 2022 - 10:20 AM
WASHINGTON (AA) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will depart from his country for the first time since the war with Russia began 10 months ago to consult with US President Joe Biden and US lawmakers, the White House confirmed on Wednesday.
“President Biden has invited President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine to visit Washington D.C. to underscore the United States’ enduring commitment to Ukraine,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre in a written statement, confirming multiple reports about a possible surprise visit by the Ukrainian leader.
“During the visit, President Biden will announce a significant new package of security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” said Jean-Pierre, adding the visit would also underscore the US’ “steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes,” including through the provision of economic, humanitarian, and military assistance.
Biden will welcome Zelenskyy at the White House on Wednesday for a bilateral meeting before the two leaders host a joint press conference, according to a senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Zelenskyy is also scheduled to address a joint session of Congress later in the day before returning to his country, the official said.
“President Biden will have the opportunity with President Zelenskyy to have an in-depth strategic discussion on the way ahead on the battlefield, on the capabilities and training that the US and our allies will continue to provide to Ukraine, on the sanctions and export controls that we have imposed (against Russia),” the official said, adding that economic and energy sector assistance, as well as humanitarian aid, would be on the leaders’ agenda.
The official said Biden would announce a new $2 billion military aid package for Ukraine, including a Patriot missile battery, a system that Russia has warned Washington against providing Kyiv.
“We will also have the opportunity along with Congress to mark the work to pass a significant package of additional funding for Ukraine for 2023,” the official also said, while adding that the a bipartisan package with more than $40 billion in funding for Ukraine was also expected.
Congress is currently hashing out the details on a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the current fiscal year, and is expected to vote on the package by the week’s end.
Asked about the risk assessment on Zelenskyy’s visit to the US, which will be his first known trip abroad since the start of the war on Feb. 24, the official said they had consulted with the Ukrainian leader, who determined the security requirements “were met.”
“Russia will continue to do what Russia does, and we will continue to do what we do. And that is, to not be deterred from our support for Ukraine and for us and Zelenskyy to not be deterred to travel as he sees fit to advance his people’s interests,” the official said.
Several US media outlets reported earlier on Tuesday about Zelenskyy’s unexpected visit to the US capital, while one source familiar with the matter told Anadolu Agency that the visit would depend on the security situation.
* Michael Hernandez contributed to this report