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Zelenskiy to visit Washington in bid to break Senate deadlock on Ukraine aid | Ukraine


Zelenskiy to visit Washington in bid to break Senate deadlock on Ukraine aid | Ukraine


Ukrainian leader invited by Joe Biden, as US president pressures Republican senators to back aid bill

Guardian staff and agencies

Sun 10 Dec 2023 19.22 EST

US President Joe Biden has invited his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the White House, days after his administration warned it would run out of money for Ukraine aid in weeks unless feuding US lawmakers act.

The meeting on Tuesday is intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion,” the White House said in a statement Sunday.

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment.”

Republican senators last week blocked $106bn in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package.

Zelenskiy’s office also said on Telegram on Sunday that the Ukrainian leader would arrive in Washington on Monday and that he would meet Biden during a working visit that would include “a series of meetings and discussions.”

Zelenskiy has also been invited to address US senators on Tuesday morning in the Capitol, a Senate leadership aide said.

A private meeting between Zelenskiy and US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson will also be held in the Capitol on Tuesday, Johnson spokesperson Raj Shah said in an email to Reuters.

The Ukrainian leader had been scheduled to address US senators by video last week, but had to cancel the appearance, according to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Congress has already allocated $111bn to assist Ukraine, and Biden’s budget director, Shalanda Young, said in a letter this past week to House and Senate leaders that the US would run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, which would “kneecap” Ukraine on the battlefield.

“It’s time to cut a deal that both sides can agree to,” Young said Sunday.

The stakes are especially high for Ukraine, secretary of state Antony Blinken said during two television interviews Sunday, given that “we are running out of funding” for the Ukrainians. “This is a time to really step up because if we don’t, we know what happens. Putin will be able to move forward with impunity and we know he won’t stop in Ukraine.”

Blinken noted that Biden has said he is willing to make significant compromises to get the aid package moving. “It’s something the president is fully prepared to engage on,” Blinken said.

Republican senator Mitt Romney said there was bipartisan agreement that something has to be done to address record numbers of migrants crossing into the US from Mexico.

“We want to solve that, to secure the border. I just saw the president of the United States say that we’ve got to secure the border. He’s right. So, any effort that doesn’t do that will be rejected by Republicans,” Romney said.

But Romney also said he supported the aid to Ukraine. “My own view is that it’s very much in America’s interest to see Ukraine successful and to provide the weapons that Ukraine needs to defend itself. Anything other than that would be a huge dereliction of our responsibility, I believe, to the world of democracy but also to our own national interest,” he said.

Republican senator JD Vance said the administration had yet to justify additional aid to Ukraine. “So what we’re saying to the president and really to the entire world is, you need to articulate what the ambition is. What is $61bn going to accomplish that $100bn hasn’t?” Vance said.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

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