WASHINGTON – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will pay his second wartime visit to Washington next week, the White House announced on Friday, in a bid to solidify the support of his country’s crucial backer which has shipped billions of dollars in aid to fight Russian invaders.
Mr Zelensky will travel to the White House on Thursday for talks with President Joe Biden and also hold meetings at the US Congress, where elements of the rival Republican Party are hesitant as Mr Biden seeks to push through a major new package for Ukraine.
The Ukrainian leader’s trip to Washington will come after meetings with other world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Mr Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s national security adviser, said that the trip came at a “critical time” as Ukraine wages a counteroffensive against Russia.
Mr Biden will reaffirm “his commitment to continuing to lead the world in supporting Ukraine as it defends its independence, its sovereignty and its territorial integrity,” Mr Sullivan told reporters.
He contrasted Mr Zelensky’s trip to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent summit with Mr Kim Jong Un of North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated and sanctioned countries, from which Moscow is seeking weapons.
But doubts have also grown over the future of US assistance as Congress approaches a Sept 30 deadline to approve funding just as the election season approaches.
Former president Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Mr Biden next year, has lashed out at US assistance, saying the money would be better spent at home and predicting an eventual triumph for Mr Putin, for whom he has shown admiration.
Building ‘momentum’ for aid
But traditional Republicans including Senator Mitch McConnell, the party’s Senate leader, support assistance to Ukraine.
“We have confidence that there will be bipartisan support for this. I think President Zelensky does as well, and he wants to build momentum towards that as we head to the end of the month,” Mr Sullivan said.
“Frankly, Republicans and Democrats both recognise that the United States cannot – in its own naked self-interest, let alone the moral obligations we have – walk away from Ukraine at this critical moment,” Mr Sullivan said.
Ukraine launched a counter-offensive against entrenched Russian positions in June but progress has been limited, spurring the political debate in the West over support for Kyiv.
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