Updated Dec 21, 2022 - World

Zelensky to America: "Russian tyranny has lost control over us"

Volodymyr Zelensky hands a Ukrainian flag signed by soldiers in war-torn Bakhmut to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Dec. 21. Photo: Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In his first international trip since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Congress and American people for their steadfast support of his country.

Driving the news: Zelensky told a joint session of Congress that "against all odds and doom-and-gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall."

  • "Your money is not charity, it's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way," Zelensky said, thanking Congress for its past and future support.
  • "Russia could stop its aggression ... but you can speed up our victory," he said.
  • Near the end of his remarks, Zelensky presented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Harris with a flag signed by Ukrainian soldiers.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Biden announced $1.8 billion in additional military aid for Ukraine during the Zelensky visit.

What they're saying: Biden said he and Zelensky shared "the exact same vision: a free, independent, prosperous and secure Ukraine." He said his priority for now is to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield so that it can also succeed in the eventual negotiations to end the war.

  • "I am standing here on the same podium as the president of the United States," Zelensky said. "For me, this is a historic moment," and one that sends a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he added.
  • Zelensky also said that "regardless of changes in Congress, I believe that there will be bipartisan, bicameral support" for Ukraine.

Between the lines: Some members of the incoming House Republican majority have expressed deep reservations about continuing to send aid to Ukraine — though GOP congressional leaders have remained split on the issue.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement Wednesday reaffirmed his support for Ukraine and Zelensky. “Continuing our support for Ukraine is morally right, but it is not only that. It is also a direct investment in cold, hard, American interests,” the Kentucky Republican said.
  • Meanwhile, the Biden administration has also been reluctant to approve shipments of certain weapons Zelensky has requested, such as longer-range missiles, out of concern that could lead to escalation with Russia.

Biden has also been unwilling to provide long-range missiles and other advanced systems requested by Ukraine.

  • Asked why during the press conference, Biden said sending such systems would risk dividing the NATO alliance and undermining global support.
  • America's European allies recognize the need to support Ukraine, Biden said, "but they're not looking to go to war with Russia, they're not looking for a third world war."
  • Biden said he has no concerns about a rupture in Western support for Ukraine heading into the new year.

Of note: Prior to their meeting, Zelensky presented Biden with a military commendation that he said had come from a "real hero" — a captain in the Ukrainian military who operates a U.S.-provided HIMARS rocket launcher.

  • Zelensky said he had presented the commendation to the captain during his visit Tuesday to the town of Bakhmut on the front lines, but the captain said it should go to Biden for his support.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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