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Volodymyr Zelensky tells US Congress Ukraine is ‘alive and kicking’ and will never surrender


olodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine is “alive and kicking” and “will never surrender” in a speech to the US Congress on his visit to the US.

In a 20-minute speech, repeatedly interrupted by standing ovations, he thanked Americans for helping to fund the war against Russia.

“Against all doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine did not fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking,” he said.

“We defeated Russia in the battle for the minds of the world.”

He pledged there would be “no compromises” in trying to bring an end to the war and vowed that Ukraine “will never surrender”.

He told senators and members of Congress his soldiers needed more weapons, including planes, and that US spending on Ukraine was not “charity” but an “investment in global security and democracy”.

Getty Images

The Ukrainian leader predicted that next year would be a “turning point” in the conflict, “when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom – the freedom of people who stand for their values”.

In his remarks to Congress, Mr Zelensky harked back to US victories in the Battle of the Bulge, a turning point against Nazi Germany in the Second World War, and the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga, an American victory that helped draw France’s aid for US independence.

He received thunderous applause from members of Congress and presented politicians with a Ukrainian flag autographed by front-line troops in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province.

The flag was displayed behind him on the rostrum by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. Ms Pelosi, in turn, presented Mr Zelensky with an American flag that had flown over the Capitol that day, and Mr Zelensky pumped it up and down as he exited the chamber.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in the United States on Wednesday – seeking help from President Joe Biden in bolstering his country’s defences against Russia.

Beginning his first journey overseas since Russia invaded 300 days ago, Mr Zelensky was photographed in his trademark green trousers and jumper, as Mr Biden greeted him and put an arm around his back outside the White House.

Shortly before Mr Zelensky’s arrival, the US announced it would provide another $1.85 billion in military aid for Ukraine, crucially including a Patriot air defence system to help it ward off barrages of Russian missiles.

Following private discussions, the two leaders held a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House around 4.45pm local time (9.45pm in the UK).

There, Mr Biden paid tribute to Mr Zelensky, whose leadership he says has “inspired…the American people and the entire world”.

He reiterated US support for Ukraine against Russia’s onslaught and said Washington backed Kyiv’s desire for a just peace.

As well as the $1.85bn in foreign aid announced on Wednesday, Congress is expected to approve $45bn more for Ukraine this week.

Mr Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart “you will never stand alone” and assured the US will continue to provide “unequivocal and unbending support for Ukraine”.

He strongly criticised Russia for targeting Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure, adding: “It’s just outrageous what he (Russian President Vladimir Putin) is doing”.

President Joe Biden (centre) and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House

/ Getty Images

“The American people are with you every step of the way, and we will stay with you for however long it takes,” he said at the press conference. “Together I have no doubt we will keep the flame of liberty burning bright.”

Mr Zelensky described the additional funding as “good news”, as he thanked Mr Biden and “the people of America who do so much for Ukraine”.

He heralded his visit as “a historic one for our relations with the US”, adding: “The main issue is to strengthen Ukraine next year – our movement forward to fight for our freedom and independence.

“I have good news heading home.”

Following the press conference, the leaders went to Capitol Hill to address a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Mr Zelensky spent less than 10 hours in Washington before beginning the journey back to Ukraine.

Recent weeks have seen Russia launch a barrage of missile and drone strikes on Ukraine, targeting the country’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions of people without electricity or running water in the middle of winter.

The Patriot missile is deemed to be one of the most advanced U.S. air defence systems, offering protection against attacking aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles.

“…Weapons, weapons and more weapons. It is important to personally explain why we need certain types of weapons,” Podolyak said. “In particular, armoured vehicles, the latest missile defence systems and long-range missiles.”

Biden and Zelensky in the Oval Office

/ AFP via Getty Images

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told American television channel MSNBC that diplomacy would be discussed with Mr Zelensky, but assured the Ukrainian leader would face no pressure for peace talks.

Mr Kirby said Washington was seeing no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to engage in peacemaking.

“Clearly we’re going to make sure that President Zelensky, when he leaves this country, knows that he’s leaving with the full support of the United States going forward,” he told MSNBC earlier.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it saw no chance of peace talks with Kyiv. In a call with reporters, spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that continued Western arms supplies to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict.

Mr Zelensky has made a point of staying close to his people throughout the war and advocating for his former Soviet state on the world stage, with daring trips to battlefronts, countless calls with world leaders and videolink speeches to parliaments and international institutions.

The president has repeatedly called on the West to supply more advanced weaponry, ranging from modern battle tanks to missile defence systems, but Western allies have been cautious, keen to minimise any risk of provoking wider conflict with Russia.

The two leaders walk through the colonnade of the White House

/ AFP via Getty Images

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer likened Zelensky’s quest to that of Winston Churchill, who sought US aid against Nazi Germany during World War Two.

“Where Winston Churchill stood generations ago, so too President Zelensky stands not just as a president, but also as an ambassador of freedom itself,” said the top Senate Democrat. “Now is not the time…to take our foot off the gas when it comes to helping Ukraine.”

Mr Zelensky’s political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said earlier that the visit demonstrated deep trust between Kyiv and Washington, and offered the Ukrainian leader the opportunity to explain Kyiv’s need for more advanced weaponry to turn the tables against its superpower adversary.

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