WASHINGTON/KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the US Congress that helping Ukraine was an investment in democracy and “not charity.” He used the American fight against the Nazis in World War II to ask for more help for his country’s war effort.
Zelenskiy’s comments on Wednesday come right before Republicans take over the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats on Jan. 3. Some Republicans have been getting more and more sceptical about giving so much aid to Ukraine.
Some Republicans who are very strict have even called for an end to aid and an audit to find out how the money that has been given has been spent.
“Your money is not a gift to others. We handle it in the most responsible way possible because it is an investment in the security and democracy of the whole world “Zelenskiy said this in English to a joint meeting of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Zelenskiy said that the world is too connected for any country to stand alone and feel safe. He asked for support from both sides of the political aisle.
Earlier, Zelenskiy met President Joe Biden on his first trip abroad during a war. He was wearing his trademark olive green pants and sweater. Biden asked for support to keep coming in 2023.
The U.S. also said it would give Ukraine another $1.85 billion in military aid, including a Patriot air defence system to help it stop Russian missile attacks.
Zelenskiy said that the Patriot system was a key part of making an air shield.
At a White House news conference, Zelenskiy stood next to Biden and said, “This is the only way we can take away the terrorist state’s main tool of terror: the ability to hit our cities and our energy.”
Zelenskiy told reporters at the White House, “We would like to get more Patriots. We are at war.”
Russia says it started its “special military operation” in Ukraine in February to get rid of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the rest of the West say that Russia is starting a war of aggression without any reason.
In the past few weeks, Russia has attacked Ukraine’s energy infrastructure several times, leaving millions of people without power or running water in the middle of a cold winter.
Russia’s ambassador to the US told the TASS news agency that Zelenskiy’s visit proved that the US didn’t mean what it said about not wanting a war with Russia.
Anatoly Antonov was quoted by TASS as saying that the U.S.’s actions in Ukraine were causing a rise in tensions whose effects were hard to imagine.
Russia said last week that if Ukraine got Patriot systems, Russia would have a right to hit them.
CALLS FOR WORLD WAR II
Zelenskiy joined a long list of world leaders who have spoken at joint meetings of the US Senate and House. This is a tradition that began in 1874 when Hawaiian King Kalakaua came to the US. Since then, kings, queens, and even a pope have come to the US during wartime.
Members of the House and Senate from both parties stood up and cheered when Zelenskiy compared his country’s fight to World War II and even the American Revolution.
Zelenskiy made an appeal to Americans as they gathered with family for Christmas. He talked about former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was in office from 1933 to 1945, and the efforts to free Europe from Nazi rule.
“Just like the brave American soldiers who held their lines and fought back Hitler’s forces on Christmas Day 1944, brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing the same thing to Putin’s forces this Christmas,” he said.
Congress is about to approve an extra $44.9 billion in emergency military and economic aid for Ukraine. This is on top of the $50 billion that has already been sent to Ukraine this year. This is because Europe is still in the middle of its biggest land conflict since World War II.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, said that there were no signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready to make peace.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, said that if the West sent more weapons to Ukraine, the conflict would “deepen.”
Zelenskiy said that for there to be a “just peace” with Russia, Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity could not be given up.
The Ukrainian military said on Wednesday night that Russian forces attacked targets in the Zaporizhzhia region and tried to advance near the damaged eastern front-line towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, which are the centre of fighting in the Donetsk region.
The head of the Ukraine’s “Petro Kuzyk, a member of the “Freedom” battalion who is helping to defend Bakhmut, told the website of Espreso TV, “Every day, between seven and ten attempts are made to storm our positions.” And the same thing happens at night.”
Kuzyk said, “They won’t be able to take Bakhmut, but if they take the hills above it, set up their artillery, and cut our supply lines, that will make things much worse.”
Putin has said that his military will get whatever it needs to fight the war, which is getting close to its 10th month, and he has supported a plan to increase the size of the armed forces by more than 30%.