Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Congress on Wednesday, making his first trip out of his beleaguered country since Russia invaded in February, Punchbowl News and Fox News reported on Tuesday.
Zelenksyy’s momentous trip to Washington comes after lawmakers agreed to grant Ukraine $45 billion (£37 billion) in additional American assistance in a huge bipartisan spending package unveiled on Tuesday. Ukraine is under a continuous and painful assault by Russian forces, who in recent weeks have focused on harming the country’s civilian infrastructure.
On December 20, the 300th day since Russian troops began their full-scale invasion, Zelenskyy travelled to the frontline against Russians trying to capture the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. His team has highlighted that unlike Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelenskyy has repeatedly put himself in clear danger amid the war. The Ukrainian leader has stayed in his homeland throughout the invasion despite intelligence showing Russian plans to assassinate him.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to all members of Congress asking them “to be physically present” for Wednesday evening regardless of holiday plans and worries about weather-related travel disruptions.
“We are ending a very special session of the 117th Congress with legislation that makes progress for the American people as well as support for our Democracy,” she wrote. “Please be present for a very special focus on Democracy Wednesday night.”
US legislators and officials and a number of foreign leaders have previously traveled to Ukraine to visit Zelenskyy and show solidarity with the besieged nation.
The visit comes as Ukraine faces the prospect of a turnover of control in the House of Representatives, where the incoming GOP majority has cast doubt on crucial US assistance for Ukrainian forces. A striking number of Republicans recently voted for a bill from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Republican) to audit American support to Ukraine, and polls of Republican voters show that they are becoming far less sympathetic to Kyiv as right-wing pundits like Tucker Carlson promote pro-Russia talking points about the conflict.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians face regular Russian airstrikes, and the prospect of extensive power cuts as the winter gets colder.
Ukrainian authorities say they have killed nearly 100,000 Russian fighters.
Zelenskyy is also planning to visit President Joe Biden at the White House, CNN reported.
Jen Bendery contributed reporting.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.