Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will deliver a virtual address to the United States Congress later this week, as US lawmakers push President Joe President to take further action amid intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine.
Zelenskyy will speak on Wednesday to members of the US House of Representatives and US Senate, Democratic Party leaders announced.
“The Congress, our country and the world are in awe of the people of Ukraine, who have shown extraordinary courage, resilience and determination in the face of Russia’s unprovoked, vicious and illegal war,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement on Monday.
Zelenskyy’s address comes amid calls by Republicans and Democrats for a tougher military response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including imposing a no-fly zone over the country and supplying Ukraine with Polish MiG fighter jets.
The Biden administration last week rejected an offer from Poland to supply such jets, and it has also repeatedly said it would not establish a no-fly zone because that could risk a direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
US President Joe Biden has imposed a series of economic sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, however, while saying the US would provide Ukraine with the resources it needs to effectively stop the Russian attack. The US is continuing to deliver Javelin anti-tank rockets and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, for example.
But more than 2.7 million people have been forced into neighbouring countries from Ukraine since the Russian assault began on February 24, according to the United Nations, and Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities and towns are continuing.
Images of death and destruction have sparked worldwide outrage and rising criticism of western nations amid the worsening humanitarian crisis.
Last week, the US Congress approved $13.6bn in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The funding includes $6.5bn for military assistance to Ukraine and about $6.7bn for refugees and economic aid to the US’s eastern European allies.
“The Congress remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting Ukraine as they face Putin’s cruel and diabolical aggression, and to passing legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as deliver humanitarian, security and economic assistance to Ukraine,” Pelosi and Schumer said on Monday.
Zelenskyy has been pushing Western nations to do more to stop the Russian invasion, and he has repeatedly urged Washington, the European Union and NATO for military hardware.
He spoke by video with a small group of influential US House and Senate lawmakers earlier this month, delivering a plea for more military aid, and he will speak to the Parliament of Canada on Tuesday, a day before he addresses the US Congress.
He received a standing ovation in an historic address to the British Parliament on March 8. “Please ensure that Ukrainian skies are safe,” he said at that time.
A week earlier, in a video address to the European Parliament on March 1, Zelenskyy also urged European leaders to help Ukraine. “Do prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” he said.
Russian and Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, were set to hold a new round of talks on Monday even as Moscow’s invading forces showed no sign of easing their advance.
The two sides’ representatives were to meet via videoconference, a Ukrainian presidential adviser and a Kremlin spokesman said.
“Our goal is that in this struggle, in this difficult negotiating work, Ukraine will get the necessary result … for peace and for security,” Zelenskyy said, adding that both sides speak every day. He said the aim was “to do everything to ensure a meeting of presidents. A meeting that I am sure people are waiting for”.