Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the U.S. Congress that the aid to his country was an investment in democracy and “not charity” and evoked the battles against the Nazis in World War II to push for more aid in the war against Russia.
Zelenskiy’s remarks Wednesday come as Republicans — some of whom have expressed growing skepticism about sending so much aid to Ukraine — are poised to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats on Jan. 3.
Some Republicans have even called for an end to the aid and an audit to find out how the allocated money has been spent.
“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskiy told a joint meeting of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
The world was too interconnected to allow any country to stand by and feel safe, Zelenskiy said while calling for bipartisan support.
Zelenskiy, dressed in his trademark olive green pants and sweater on his first foreign visit, met earlier with U.S. President Joe Biden, asking for support to keep aid flowing in 2023.
The United States announced another $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including a Patriot air defense system to help protect it from Russian missile barrages.
Zelenskiy said the Patriot system was an important step in creating an air shield.
“It’s the only way to deprive the terrorist state of its main instrument of terror: the possibility of attacking our cities, our energy,” Zelenskiy said at a White House news conference alongside Biden.
“We’d like to get more Patriots. (…) We are at war,” Zelenskiy told reporters at the White House.
Russia says it launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24 to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West call Russia’s actions an unprovoked war of aggression.
Ukraine has suffered repeated Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure in recent weeks, leaving millions of people without electricity or running water in the dead of winter.
Zelenskiy congratulated power workers for working tirelessly to keep power flowing, marking Thursday as Electrical Engineers’ Day, a day after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.
“Even if the enemy can temporarily leave us without light, it will never succeed in leaving us without the desire to do things right, to repair and restore normalcy,” he said on Telegram. “Together we will overcome any darkness.”
Serhi Popko, head of the Kiev city’s military administration, said the main problem was not power generation, but the supply of electricity to households.
“It is precisely because of destroyed networks and nodes that many Kiev residents cannot get electricity in their homes,” he was quoted on the administration’s Telegram page.
The TASS news agency quoted the Russian ambassador to the United States as saying that Zelenskiy’s visit to the United States confirmed that Washington’s statements of not wanting a conflict with Russia were empty words.
The provocative actions of the United States were leading to an escalation, the consequences of which were impossible to imagine, TASS quoted Anatoly Antonov as saying.
Russia said last week that Patriot systems, if delivered to Ukraine, would be a legitimate target for Russian attacks.
REFERENCE TO CHRISTMAS 1944
Zelenskiy joined a long list of world leaders who have spoken at joint meetings of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as well as kings, queens and a pope.
House members and senators from both parties jumped to applaud parts of Zelensky’s speech, which compared his country’s battle to World War II and even the Thirteen Colonies Revolution.
Referring to former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ruled from 1933 to 1945, and efforts to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation, Zelenskiy appealed to Americans reuniting with his family for Christmas.
“Just like the brave American soldiers, who held their lines and fought Hitler’s forces during Christmas 1944, brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing the same against Putin’s forces this Christmas,” he said.
Congress is poised to approve an additional $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic aid, adding to the $50 billion already sent to Ukraine this year, as Europe’s biggest ground conflict since World War II drags on.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Washington saw no indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to participate in a peace process.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said more Western arms supplies to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict.
Zelenskiy said a “just peace” with Russia means not compromising Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
On Wednesday, Putin vowed to give his army everything it needs to continue the war and backed a plan to increase the size of the armed forces by more than 30 percent.