Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky left his homeland for the first time since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February to meet U.S. President Biden in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 21, 2022. The visit was planned in secrecy amid heightened security concerns, but the Ukrainian president got a red-carpet welcome.
On the way to the White House, Zelensky shared the photographs of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Instagram. He wrote in his post that he was in Washington to thank the American people, the President, and Congress. The Ukrainian president was received at the base by Rufus Gifford, the chief of protocol for the United States, and Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States.
Zelensky was greeted on the South Lawn by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden. About half an hour later, both the leaders sat down for their short meeting. Zelensky thanked the leadership of President Biden and expressed his gratitude to Congress for their approval of the funding packages. He then presented Biden with a combat award from a Ukrainian soldier.
This short meeting was followed by a joint press conference, in which Biden said that it was particularly meaningful meeting President Zelensky in person. The Ukrainian president heavily criticized Russia for its ‘atrocities’ and said that Putin had no intention of stopping the cruel war. Biden promised lasting support and the Patriot Air Defense System for Ukraine from the United States.
Shortly before the arrival of Zelensky, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, had urged Republicans to attend the Ukrainian president’s address to Congress. In his speech, which lasted a little more than 20 minutes, Zelensky compared the ongoing war to America’s fight for independence. He denounced Russia’s war tactics and said that the Ukrainian soldiers would fight back Putin’s forces the same way as the brave American soldiers had fought back Hitler’s forces.