By JOSIE JACK and MONICA GODNICK
WASHINGTON – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday used face-to-face meetings with Congress and President Joe Biden to plead for additional U.S. military aid for his war-torn nation.
“Today I’m in Washington to strengthen our coalition to defend Ukrainian children, families, our homes, freedom and democracy in the world,” Zelenskyy told reporters as he stood with Biden in the White House’s Oval Office in the afternoon. It was Zelenskyy’s sixth meeting with Biden since the Russian invasion.
Earlier, Zelenskyy said he had a “great dialogue” with senators in the United States Capitol, where he faced resistance from a faction of Senate and House Republicans that opposes further spending on humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.
Biden last month requested $40 billion from Congress in emergency spending, including $24 billion for Ukraine.
“If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, quoted Zelenskyy telling senators during a private meeting in the Old Senate Chamber.
The split within the Republican Party, especially in the House, on how to move forward with support for Ukraine is part of a larger debate about overall government spending that threatens to shut down many federal services when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
Far-right GOP lawmakers have refused to honor an earlier budget deal they agreed to and so far have refused to work with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, to craft a compromise that would avoid a shutdown.
“This is the worst possible time for House Republicans to be signaling that they are contemplating turning their back on Ukraine and handing that country to Vladimir Putin,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said in a leadership press conference Tuesday.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, is one of the House members who opposes Ukraine aid and voted against moving ahead with an annual defense spending bill that traditionally has found broad bipartisan support.
“Our country is being invaded by thousands every damn day and our Department of Defense does nothing,” Greene stated on X (formerly known as Twitter). “Our Defense bill should not fund our DOD for blood money for the Ukraine war, that’s why I’m a NO.”
“I think it’s irresponsible to think about their country before I think about my country,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, told Fox Business Thursday.
Paul is one of 28 Republican members of Congress that published a letter on X Thursday opposing more aid to Ukraine.
Zelenskyy’s request to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress – an opportunity to speak directly to the members opposing the aid – was rebuffed. Yet he still spoke to some House members Thursday.
“Zelenskyy asked for a joint session, we just didn’t have time. He’s already given a joint session,” McCarthy told reporters.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, was among the House members who met with Zelenskyy.
Hoyer said in a statement that “we must do whatever it takes to ensure that Ukraine prevails over Russia in this fight for the future of democracy.”
“Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and the dictators of the world are watching what we do next,” the congressman said in a statement. “Our Congress, country, and coalition of freedom-loving peoples around the world need to stand united in defense of our sacred democratic values. That means giving the Ukrainians whatever military materiel, humanitarian aid, and political support necessary to defeat Russia.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said he was glad to have about the opportunity to ask questions about the state of Ukraine’s counteroffensive and hear from the Ukrainian president firsthand. He supports aid to Ukraine.
“At the risk of repeating myself, American support for Ukraine is not charity. It’s an investment in our own direct interests – not least because degrading Russia’s military power helps to deter our primary strategic adversary, China,” McConnell said in a statement.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and initiated attacks on Ukraine’s Donbas region the same year. Russian forces mounted a larger invasion of Ukraine last year but they failed to meet key military objectives. The protracted conflict has killed nearly 10,000 Ukrainian civilians and injured an additional 17,500, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Military casualties are staggering: an estimated 300,000 Russian soldiers, including 120,000 dead, and nearly 200,000 Ukrainian soldiers, including about 70,000 killed, according to U.S. officials interviewed by The New York Times last month.
As he arrived in Washington, Zelenskyy mentioned the latest overnight mass missile attacks from Russia that struck Ukrainian energy facilities.
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