By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday addressed a joint session of the US congress with an impassioned speech to wrap up his visit to Washington where he told the lawmakers that Ukraine’s struggle “will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live.”
“Against all odds, and doom and gloom scenarios,” he said, “Ukraine did not fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.”
Zelenskyy, who spoke in English for the address, thanked the United States for its military equipment and its financial support.
“Your money is not charity,” he assured Congress. “It is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
Zelenskyy said that while Russia has an advantage in artillery, ammunition, missiles and planes, “our defense forces stand.”
“Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender,” Zelenskyy said.
He ended by presenting Congress with a battle flag given to him by the Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine where his forces have been engaged for months in heavy fighting. In return, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave him a U.S. flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, US President Joe Biden welcomed Zelenskyy to the White House, his first known visit outside Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion of the country in February.
The American people “have stood proudly” with Ukrainians, Biden said.
“Democrats and Republicans together with our allies in Europe and Japan and other places, to make sure you have the financial, humanitarian and security assistance that is needed,” he added, noting that it has been 300 days since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his “brutal assault on Ukraine’s right to exist as a nation.”
Zelenskyy extended to Biden his appreciation for the bipartisan support “from my heart, the hearts of Ukrainians, all Ukrainians.”
“Thanks, from our just ordinary people to your ordinary people, Americans,” he said.
Zelenskyy also gave Biden a Cross for Military Merit medal that belonged to a Ukrainian soldier, a captain of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) battery provided by the U.S. The soldier had asked Zelenskyy to give it to the “very brave president.” Accepting the medal, Biden said it was “undeserved, but much appreciated.”
The two later held a joint press conference in which Biden reassured Zelenskyy of US support.
“We’re going to give Ukraine what it needs to be able to defend itself, to be able to succeed, and to succeed on the battlefield,” Biden said, adding “We are staying with Ukraine as long as Ukraine is there.”
Asked why not just give all the weapons capabilities that Ukraine is asking for, Biden said the United States is giving Ukraine what it needs to be able to defend itself and succeed in the battlefield.
“The idea that we would give Ukraine material that is fundamentally different than what is already going there would have a prospect of breaking up NATO and breaking up the European Union and the rest of the world,” he said.
Biden said he has spent “several hundred hours” with European allies to urge them to continue to support Ukraine.
“They understand it fully, but they’re not looking to go to war with Russia. They’re not looking for a Third World War,” he said.
Zelenskyy was asked if there is a way to end the war, a “just peace.”
“For me as a president,” Zelenskyy said, “just peace is no compromise as to the sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity of my country. The payback for all the damages inflicted by Russian aggression.”
The trip comes as US lawmakers are debating $45 billion more in emergency aid to Ukraine, which would bring the total American wartime assistance to more than $100 billion.