Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “Ukraine is alive and well” during his address to Congress on Wednesday, December 21. He closed out a joint session of Congress with the historic speech, during his first trip outside of his country since the war against Russia began, and told lawmakers who have been funding Ukraine’s war against the Russian invasion that “Russian tyranny has lost.”
During the speech, Zelensky was met with cheers from both Democrats and Republicans in the chamber and some lawmakers even had a Ukrainian flag on display on the House floor. During the end of the speech, Zelensky presented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a Ukrainian battle flag he got on the front lines during a visit to Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces confronted a Russian offensive forces. She showed him appreciation by kissing him on the cheek.
As lawmakers are on the verge of voting in support of another $45 billion for Ukraine, Zelensky also talked openly about Russia’s bloody attacks on his country. “They sent thugs to the front line,” he explained. “[They] destroy everything they see.”
“We have artillery. Yes, thank you. Is it enough? Not really,” he added before making it known that Americans didn’t need to do the fighting for Ukrainians. “I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can operate American tanks. And planes. Themselves. Your money is not charity. It is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
He also described the war as a way to protect allies and neighbors from Russian attacks. “We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world. We have no fear,” he said. “Nor should anyone in the world have it.”
Before the congressional address, he was greeted at the White House after arriving by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden before the speech. The presidents held a meeting together and then a press conference, where they detailed aid that the U.S. is giving Ukraine. Zelensky said he had hope that both sides of the aisle would support. “I believe that there will be bipartisan and bicameral support,” he said.
“That’s why we have succeeded in uniting the global community to protect freedom and international law,” Zelensky went on to say, when he talked about allied nations rallying to support Ukraine after Russia’s invasion. He also said the invasion repeatedly cast a threat to the entire world order.
Zelensky announced that he was traveling to the United States to address officials and to speak with the president in a tweet early on Wednesday. “On my way to the US to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of [Ukraine],” he wrote. “In particular, POTUS and I will discuss cooperation between [Ukraine] and [the United States]. I will also have a speech at the Congress and a number of bilateral meetings.”
While this is the Ukrainian president’s first in-person speech to Congress, he has spoken to elected officials via video to garner support as his country defends itself against Russian forces. In a March video message, Zelensky called on Congress to “close the sky” over Ukraine and asked for support shortly after the war began. “Peace in your country doesn’t depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you and those who are strong,” he said. “I’m addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world, means being the leader of peace.”
Zelensky has made numerous appearances to ask Americans to support Ukraine in their fight against Russia in any way that they can. He’s publicly thanked Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis for raising money for Ukraine and spoke via video at the 2022 Grammy Awards.
While this is Zelensky’s first trip to the U.S. since the war began, First Lady Jill Biden did spend Mother’s Day in Ukraine and met with Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, who has also been very active in speaking out against Russia, to show solidarity amid the war. Zelenska showed her thanks for Biden making the trip. “We all feel your support. We all feel the leadership of the U.S president. But we would like to note that Mother’s Day is a very symbolic day for us. Because we also feel your love and support during such an important day,” she said, per NBC News.
The first lady isn’t the only official who has traveled to Ukraine to show support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a delegation including Chairman Jim McGovern, Chairman Gregory Meeks, Chairman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Bill Keating, and Congressman Jason Crow also trekked to Kyiv to meet with the Ukrainian President in May. “We believe that we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom. We are on a frontier of freedom and your fight is a fight for everyone. Our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done,” she said.
Check out Zelensky’s full speech to the U.S. Congress above.