Zelenskyy Begins US Visit With Plea For Additional Military Aid


(RFE/RL) — President Volodymyr Zelenskiy began his first day in Washington on December 11 with a plea to U.S. military leaders for additional aid to his beleaguered nation, telling them that “we won’t give up” the battle against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

“Putin must lose. We know what to do. You can count on Ukraine, and we hope just as much to be able to count on you,” Zelenskiy told a gathering at the National Defense University in Washington.

In his introduction of the Ukrainian leader, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised “unshakable” support for Kyiv and warned that Putin still had hopes of winning his war against in Ukraine, despite the Kremlin’s heavy losses in the conflict that begin in February 2022.

“Despite his crimes and despite his isolation, Putin still believes that he can outlast Ukraine and that he can outlast America. But he is wrong,” Austin said as the crowd of military leaders and students applauded.

“America’s commitments must be honored,” he added as the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden struggles to convince many opposition Republicans of the need to continue to aid Kyiv.

Zelenskiy said that “if there’s anyone inspired by unresolved issues on Capitol Hill, it’s just Putin and his secret clique. Ukrainians haven’t given up and won’t give up.”

Zelenskiy arrived in Washington on December 11 after a visit to Argentina as he continues to make his case for continued support as Ukraine braces for a second difficult winter of war with invading Russian forces.

Biden invited Zelenskiy to Washington to reaffirm his administration’s backing of Kyiv amid a dispute with Republicans in Congress who are blocking tens of billions of dollars in much-needed military and economic aid for the embattled country.

As Zelenskiy prepared to make the case for deblocking the aid package in the United States, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on December 11 arrived in Brussels, where an EU summit on December 15 will decide whether to launch membership negotiations with Kyiv and also give it 50 billion euros ($53.8 billion) in economic aid.

Biden will receive Zelenskiy at the White House on December 12, spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said, and the Ukrainian leader will also address U.S. senators and meet with the new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson.

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” Jean-Pierre said.

Zelenskiy’s office said the Ukrainian leader would hold a “series of meetings and discussions” focusing on defense cooperation between Washington and Kyiv, “particularly through joint projects on the production of weapons and air defense systems, as well as the coordination of efforts between our countries in the coming year.”

Zelenskiy also met in Washington with International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Kristalina Georgieva on December 11 as the organization’s executive board released an additional $900 million from Ukraine’s $15.6 billion loan package.

“We spoke about the remarkable resilience of the people of Ukraine despite the enormous toll of the war,” Georgieva said.

“The [Ukrainian] economy is performing strongly, with GDP growth projected to reach at least 4.5 percent this year. Inflation has continued to decline, to an annual rate of 5.1 percent in November.”

Zelenskiy’s visit comes after he canceled a video address to U.S. senators on December 5 as debate heated up on Biden’s nearly $106 billion request for funding for the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

The Biden administration asked Congress in October to pass the aid package, which would cover not only aid for Ukraine and Israel but also border security, but the Republican-controlled House rejected the request.

The Washington visit follows Zelenskiy’s first trip to Latin America, where he thanked regional leaders on December 10 for their support of his country in its battle against the full-scale Russian invasion and the “fight for freedom and democracy.”

While in Argentina for the inauguration of new President Javier Milei, Zelenskiy met briefly with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a bid to resolve differences over Ukraine’s bid for European Union membership.

Orban has maintained close ties with Putin and his nationalist government has argued against EU sanctions on Moscow over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Orban last week reportedly sent a letter to European Council President Charles Michel to demand that Ukraine’s membership in the bloc be taken off the agenda at an EU summit next week.

Despite Zelenskiy’s short meeting with Orban in Argentina, Hungarian Foreign Minister’s Peter Szijjarto on December 11 said Budapest would not give in to “blackmail” and will not change its position.

“We continue to make our decisions in accordance with European and national interests and do not allow any kind of pressure, irrespective of who or where it comes from, or whether it’s blackmail or promises,” Szijjarto said on Facebook.

Kuleba on December 11 warned of “devastating” repercussions for Ukraine and the EU if the bloc does not agree on green-lighting the start of admission talks with Ukraine.

“I cannot imagine, I don’t even want to talk about the devastating consequences that will occur shall the (European) Council fail to make this decision,” Kuleba said ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

Kuleba said that Kyiv was “still struggling to understand these harsh statements from Hungary” and added that Ukraine implemented all the systemic judicial and education reforms that the bloc required for the start of accession talks.

“We did our homework,” Kuleba said. “We expect the European Union to do its homework.”


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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