Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy could travel to Washington, meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and visit Congress on Wednesday, according to sources familiar with the situation, in what would be the Ukrainian leader’s first known trip outside his country since the Russian invasion in late February.
Biden is expected to meet Zelenskiy at the White House, a source said. The Ukrainian leader’s visit would coincide with Biden’s intention to send the Kiev government Patriot missiles, CNN reported, to protect it from intense Russian bombing.
Zelenskiy’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Zelenskiy left Ukraine for the last time to attend the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 19, according to his official schedule.
The foreign trip after 10 months of war would include a visit to lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol, a source familiar with the planning said Tuesday. The trip has not been confirmed and security issues could force plans to change, the source said.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zelenskiy’s alleged visit.
Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi said in a letter that there would be a session of Congress Wednesday night that would have a “very special focus on democracy.”
“THE FORTRESS OF BAJMUT”
The Ukrainian leader made a surprise trip to troops in the battered eastern frontline city of Bakhmut, his office said Tuesday, underscoring Russia’s intermittent but persistent attempts to capture her.
By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented medals within the comfort of the Kremlin to Russian-appointed leaders of four regions of Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed since invading its neighbor.
Zelenskiy, in his video speech Tuesday night, referred to his trip to “Bakkhmut Fortress” in Donetsk, one of the provinces Russia claimed in September but which most countries reject as an illegal occupation.
A video broadcast earlier by Ukrinform TV, part of the state news agency, showed soldiers handing Zelenskiy a Ukrainian flag with their signatures.
“We will deliver it to Congress and the president of the United States on behalf of the boys,” Zelenskiy said in the video. “We are grateful for the support. But it’s not enough.”
Neither Zelenskiy nor the soldiers he met appeared to say anything about the time or place of the handing over of the flag to the Americans.
Zelenskiy said in his late-night video that he passed several cities in the Donetsk region, including Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Kostyantynivka, long cited as possible Russian targets.
“Please support our tattered but undefeated Bajmut and its defenders,” Zelensky said.
The most destructive fighting in recent weeks has taken place around Bakhmut, where Zelensky, dressed in a khaki battle khaki handed medals to soldiers in a crumbling industrial complex to loud applause, a video released by his office shows.
With the roar of artillery audible in the distance, Zelenskiy urged them to keep their spirits up as the battle for Bakhmut, which has come to symbolize the brutality of war, entered its fifth month.
“The East resists because Bajmut is fighting. In fierce battles and at the cost of many lives, freedom is defended here for all of us,” Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Earlier, Zelenskiy reiterated his call for the West to provide more weaponry, including air defense systems, after Russian drones struck energy targets in a third air offensive against air facilities in six days.
A U.S. government funding bill in the Senate included $44.9 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine and NATO allies. The money would go to military training, equipment, logistical and intelligence support, as well as to replenish US material sent to the Kiev government.
The World Bank said on Tuesday it had approved an additional financing package totalling $610 million to address urgent relief and recovery needs in Ukraine.