Zelenskyy In historic visit to Washington gives report from the front line

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By Thomas Hill  with AP
A hero's welcome for Zelenskyy in the US Congress.
A hero's welcome for Zelenskyy in the US Congress.   -  Copyright  Jacquelyn Martin/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Ukraine’s President gave America’s lawmakers a first-hand account of living on the front line in Russia’s war against his country in Congress, drawing on his own recent visit to Bakhmut.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his historic speech after leaving his homeland for the first time since the invasion began over 300 days ago.

Speaking in English, he told Congress: “Last year 70,000 people lived in Bakhmut. In this city now, only a few civilians stay. Every inch of that land is soaked in blood, roaring guns sound every hour, trenches in the Donbas change hands several times a day on fierce combat and even hand fighting, but the Ukrainian Donbas stands.”

The Ukrainian President’s speech was met with loud applause, and there was no sign of dissent, even from Republicans, some of whom have questioned an apparent “blank cheque” position on arming the country in the face of Russian aggression. He presented lawmakers with a Ukrainian flag autographed by front-line troops in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris displayed the flag behind him on the rostrum. Pelosi, in turn, presented Zelenskyy with an American flag that had flown over the Capitol that day, and Zelenskyy pumped it up and down as he exited the chamber.

White House meeting

At the White House, Mr Zelenskyy met President Joe Biden and thanked him, and the American people, for their ongoing support.

That support is underlined by the latest round of military and financial assistance being given to Ukraine by the US, which is by far the largest supporter of the country among western allies. Latest arms shipments are said to include long-awaited Patriot missile batteries, which will offer Ukraine’s citizens a greater chance of surviving bombardment by Russian missiles and shells.

President Biden, for his part, said Russia was “trying to use winter as a weapon, but Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world." During the news conference, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “no intention of stopping this cruel war.”

The two leaders appeared to share a warm rapport, laughing at each other's comments and patting each other on the back throughout the visit, although Zelenskyy made clear he will continue to press Biden and other Western leaders for ever more support.

Biden told Zelenskyy that it was “important for the American people, and for the world, to hear directly from you, Mr President, about Ukraine’s fight, and the need to continue to stand together through 2023."

President Zelenskyy’s decision to leave his homeland for the first known time since fighting began also served to undermine Russia’s claims that support for Ukraine is wavering among NATO allies.