The Ukrainian leader promised to handle billions of American taxpayer dollars “in the most responsible way”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky addressed a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, urging US lawmakers to drop all their disagreements and unite behind Ukraine, while advocating for the passage of a $1.7 trillion spending bill that includes $45 billion in military and other aid earmarked for Kiev in 2023.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked all members to attend in person to hear the “historic” speech, which Zelensky delivered in English, repeatedly interrupted by standing ovations. After several minutes of applause, the former actor opened his speech by thanking “all those who value freedom and justice.”
“It gives me great pleasure to share our first joint victory: We defeated Russia in the minds of the world,” the Ukrainian leader claimed. He thanked US lawmakers for supporting Kiev financially and militarily against Moscow, but reiterated that more arms are needed to defeat Russia on the battlefield.
“We have artillery, yes, thank you… Is it enough? Honestly, not really,” he said, interrupted by a burst of laughter. “More cannons and shells are needed.”
Zelensky called for unity ahead of a power transition that will put Republicans in charge of the House next year. US congressional support for Ukraine aid has been largely bipartisan, but Republicans have been increasingly critical of the scale of the spending and the lack of oversight to prevent fraud.
“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelensky told the audience to another round of standing ovation.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives narrowly rejected a bill that called for an audit of Washington’s economic and military assistance to Kiev. The massive scale of US military aid to Ukraine even reportedly put Pentagon’s own law enforcement agency on high alert for black market sales of Washington’s weaponry and other potential fraud.
Welcoming Zelensky to the Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Pelosi said the mammoth $1.7 trillion spending bill, which contains some $45 billion in new aid for Kiev, will “hopefully” be passed within the next 48 hours.
Earlier in the day, Zelensky had a meeting with President Joe Biden, who promised him that “American people” will continue to support Kiev “as long as it takes.” However, when pressed by a reporter at a joint press conference on why can’t the US simply give Ukraine “all capabilities it needs” right away, Biden noted that the West wants to avoid direct war with Russia.
Moscow has repeatedly warned the US and its allies that shipments of increasingly modern and long-range weapons could lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO, and accused the West of prolonging the conflict and causing needless deaths in Ukraine.