Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an emotional plea to Congress on Wednesday night, urging U.S. lawmakers to approve more aid for Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia.
The speech capped off Mr. Zelenskyy’s first publicly known trip outside Ukraine since the war began some 300 days ago. Earlier Wednesday he met President Biden at the White House for bilateral talks and a joint press conference.
In a direct appeal aimed at lawmakers and U.S. citizens, Mr. Zelenskyy said support from the U.S. is “crucial” for Ukraine to win on the battlefield as the war passes the 300-day mark.
“Here, the front line, the tyranny — which has no lack of cruelty against the lives of free people — and your support is crucial not just to stand in such a fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield,” he said.
“We have artillery, yes, thank you. Is it enough? Honestly, not really,” Mr. Zelenskyy said, emphasizing that Ukraine was fighting for its “independence and freedom.”
Mr. Zelenskyy’s remarks come as lawmakers weigh a massive $1.7 billion government spending bill that includes more than $45 billion in new emergency funds for Ukraine.
That is $8 billion more than the $37 billion Mr. Biden asked Congress for last month and, if approved, it will be the largest tranche of emergency assistance provided to Ukraine.
In his remarks, Mr. Zelenskyy assured lawmakers that their money will be well spent.
“Your money is not charity. It is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “Russia can stop the aggression if it wanted to, but you can speed up our victory, I know it.”
So far, lawmakers have allocated more than $65 billion in total aid to Ukraine, including both financial and humanitarian assistance since Russia invaded the country in February.
Earlier Wednesday, during a joint press conference at the White House, Mr. Biden vowed to give Ukraine what it needs to “succeed on the battlefield.”
However, some Republican lawmakers have grown weary of shelling out so much direct funding to the country. If Congress approves the $45 billion, it would bring U.S. assistance to over $100 billion.
With Republicans taking control of the House next month, it’s widely expected that the GOP will try to scale back U.S. financial support for Ukraine.
“$100 billion to Ukraine. Let’s put that in perspective. That’s more than $200 million this year from each Congressional district,” Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, said in a Twitter post Wednesday. “What could your congressman have done for your district with $200 million? How long will the kids in your district be paying interest on this debt?”
Still, plenty of GOP lawmakers who took a harsh line on Ukraine funding, turned out to hear Mr. Zelenskyy’s remarks. Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Boebert of Colorado were spotted sitting next to each other.
Rep. Warren Davidson, Ohio Republican, also attended the address, despite criticizing Mr. Zelenskyy’s appearance.
“Happy to meet elsewhere, but Zelenskyy should not speak from the chamber of the United States House of Representatives,” Mr. Davidson tweeted earlier in the day.
Despite Republican skepticism, Congress gave Mr. Zelenskyy a hero’s welcome. He was interrupted at least six times with thunderous applause and standing ovations. Some lawmakers wore blue and yellow outfits, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
At the end of his remarks, Mr. Zelenskyy handed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Vice President Kamala Harris, a Ukrainian flag signed by Ukrainian soldiers to hold up on the dais as he wished for a “victorious new year.”