Russia-Ukraine war: Hero’s welcome for Zelensky in Washington lifts mood in Kyiv
KYIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Ukraine on Thursday after a high-profile visit to Washington that was greeted at home mostly with pride and hope that his impassioned, personal appeals would keep the flow of American weapons and financial support flowing.
Amid the gloom and cold of Russian missile strikes that cut power to millions as winter sets in – and after weeks of stalemate along much of the frontline – the surprise presidential trip boosted morale in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians said they were delighted to see members of Congress chant during Mr Zelensky’s appearance the patriotic salute “Glory to heroes!”
“Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, everything will be given to us, we will be helped,” Valery Trikhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a post on Facebook.
Reached by phone later, Mr. Trihub said he stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to watch Mr. Zelensky address a joint session of Congress, where the Ukrainian president received a standing ovation and introduced Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi with a Ukrainian flag signed by soldiers.
“This is without exaggeration a historic event,” he said of Mr. Zelensky’s visit, his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion in February.
“Now more than ever we need world support in the fight for independence,” added Mr Trihub. “The United States is one of many countries that has finally realized that without outside support we cannot win. So we need help, especially since we have common values like democracy and freedom.
On his way back from Washington, Mr. Zelensky landed Thursday in Poland, where he said that he met with President Andrzej Duda. He was returning to Ukraine with at least one tangible gain: an additional $1.8 billion in military aid announced Wednesday, including Patriot missile batteryone of the most advanced air defense systems.
But congressional passage of the omnibus spending bill, which includes an additional nearly $50 billion in funding for Ukraine, was delayed Wednesday night by the impasse over immigration policy.
Still, it was mostly a triumphant visit, planned in secret, for Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian who was elected in a landslide in 2019 but whose popularity was falling before Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February. Mr Zelensky remained in Kyiv even as the capital appeared to be about to fall and most Ukrainians quickly put politics aside to rally around their president.
“Never in my entire life did I imagine that the president of Ukraine would address Congress,” Tetyana Bisyk, a writer, tweeted on Thursday, adding, “I’m so proud to be Ukrainian.”
Artur Bilous, a political analyst, wrote on Facebook that while “no Ukrainian president has ever been greeted like this” in Washington, Mr Zelensky’s trip will ultimately be judged a success if it helps accelerate the flow of arms.
“In particular, how quickly military aid will be delivered, primarily the Patriot air defense system,” Mr. Billows wrote.
By and large, the reaction in Ukraine was one of pride and hope – and continued defiance of Russia.
“Putin, I hope you’re watching this in real time,” tweeted Kyra Rudyk, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We. I will. I’m winning.”
Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv.
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