Live Updates: Biden hails Zelenskyy as

Washington — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived at the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Biden and thank him for the billions of dollars in aid the U.S. has provided to his country to repel Russia’s ongoing assault, making the first known trip outside his country in the 300 days since the invasion began.

Mr. Biden rolled out a red carpet at the White House for the arrival of the Ukrainian leader, who was wearing an olive-green sweatshirt, cargo pants and boots. The two met in the Oval Office, where Mr. Biden said the U.S. “stands with the great people of Ukraine” and called Zelenskyy a “great leader.”

Mr. Biden and Zelenskyy are scheduled to hold a news conference at 4:30 p.m. ET. Zelenskyy will then head to Capitol Hill, where he will address a joint meeting of Congress at 7:30 p.m.

Planning for the trip was cloaked in secrecy given the extraordinary security concerns that come with a wartime leader traveling outside his country.

Shortly before Zelenskyy arrived, the State Department unveiled a new military aid package for Ukraine worth $1.85 billion, bringing the total military aid sent to Ukraine to $22 billion. In a first, the U.S. is sending a sophisticated Patriot missile battery that can repel Russian missiles and aircraft. The new package also includes hundred of thousands of mortars and artillery shells, dozens of vehicles and specialized kits that greatly enhance the effectiveness and accuracy of bombs dropped from fighter jets. 

“We’re going to continue to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, particularly air defense,” Mr. Biden said. “And that’s why we’re going to be providing Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery and training your forces to be able to accurately use it.”

President Biden Meets With Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky In The Oval Office Of White House
President Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 21, 2022.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Zelenskyy’s visit comes as Russia has ramped up strikes against critical Ukrainian infrastructure as winter sets in, with Russian forces last week launching one of the largest assaults on the capital of Kyiv since the war began.

The Ukrainian president’s speech to Congress also comes as U.S. lawmakers work to pass a sweeping $1.7 trillion government spending package that includes nearly $45 billion in military, humanitarian and economic assistance for Ukraine. The measure would be one of the final pieces of legislation passed by the current Congress, and lawmakers were moving with urgency to clear the omnibus bill before a Friday deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.

The roughly $45 billion included for Ukraine is higher than the $37.7 billion requested by the White House in November and, if approved by Congress, would be the latest tranche of emergency assistance provided to Ukraine as it continues to fight Russia.

Lawmakers have allocated more than $65 billion in total aid, which includes financial and humanitarian assistance, to Ukraine since the invasion, though some House Republicans have expressed opposition to continuing direct funding to the country. This new package would bring U.S. assistance to over $100 billion. 

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