Zelensky’s welcome in Washington boosts morale in Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — President Volodymyr Zelensky’s unannounced trip to Washington on Wednesday boosted morale in Ukraine, where millions of people have been plunged into darkness and cold by Russian missile attacks that have knocked out power. as winter comes.

After weeks of stalemate on much of the front, some Ukrainians said Thursday they were glad to see many members of Congress sing the patriotic refrain “Glory to the heroes!” during Zelensky’s appearance a day earlier.

The high profile visit It was greeted in Ukraine primarily with pride and the hope that the impassioned in-person appeals of its president would keep the flow of American arms and financial support.

“Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, everything will be given to us, we will be helped,” Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a Facebook post.

Contacted by phone later, Mr Tryhub said he had stayed up until 2:30 a.m. a Ukrainian flag that had been signed by soldiers.

“This is, without exaggeration, a historic event,” he said of Zelensky’s first trip abroad since the invasion of Russia in February.

Tetiana Bisyk, a writer, said on Twitter Thursday: “All my life, I never imagined that the president of Ukraine would address Congress,” adding: “I am so proud to be Ukrainian.”

In Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin said he wanted the fighting to end and called on Ukraine to negotiate.

Following the Kremlin’s propaganda script, Putin accused the United States of bringing the war to Ukraine in 2014, he said, supporting the country’s pro-Western revolution and Ukrainian military action in the country’s east. (In fact, it was Russia that largely fueled and orchestrated a separatist conflict there.)

“Our goal is not to spin this wheel of a military conflict, but rather to end this war,” he told a news conference on Thursday. “We are fighting for this and we will continue to do so.”

Moscow accused Ukraine of not being willing to sit down for talks, and Putin did it again on Thursday. “Sooner or later, of course, any party in a state of conflict sits down and comes to an agreement,” he said. “The quicker those who oppose us realize this, the better.”

Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Washington was treated by Russian commentators with derision.

“A guy in a wrinkled green sweater, who calls himself the president of an independent sovereign state, flew on an American plane to an American airbase,” said Rodion Miroshnik, a pro-Kremlin analyst.

Some Russian commentators said that the way he traveled to Washington showed that he was a puppet of the United States.

“A little devil came to see old Satan,” said Vladimir Solovyov, host of the main political talk show on Russia’s state television channel.

On Thursday, Dmitri S. Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, also said, as the Kremlin has argued before, that the trip showed the United States’ commitment to fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian.”

Zelensky’s visit drew praise from Ukraine’s two allies, Germany and France.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmerman, chairwoman of the defense committee in Germany’s parliament, said Thursday she was relieved to see that rivalries between Republicans and Democrats had not undermined US support for Ukraine in the war.

“It was an incredibly important signal to all Ukrainians who are fighting for their survival, but also a very powerful gesture to Europe, that the United States stands with Europe,” he said.

In Germany, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz called Zelensky’s visit a “sign of hope”, though not a “game changer”.

In France, the visit was widely viewed as historic, with Zelensky being described as being received like a hero. “It’s a real show of force,” Dominique de Villepin, France’s foreign minister from 2002 to 2004, he told France Inter radio.

Even amid the euphoria in Ukraine, some took a note of caution.

Mr. Zelensky was returning home with at least one tangible gain: an additional $1.8 billion in military aid announced Wednesday that included a Patriot missile battery, one of the most advanced air defense systems. But passage in Congress of a comprehensive spending bill, which includes nearly $50 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, did not come immediately Wednesday night because of an impasse over immigration policy, and talks were still ongoing.

Artur Bilous, a political analyst, wrote on Facebook that while “no Ukrainian president has ever been greeted like this” in Washington, Zelensky’s trip would ultimately be considered a success only if it helped speed up the flow of arms.

“In particular, how quickly military aid will be delivered, first of all, the Patriot air defense system,” Bilous wrote.

Still, it was a largely triumphant visit, planned in stealth, for Zelensky, a former comedy actor who was cast in a landslide in 2019 but whose popularity plummeted before Russia invaded. Zelensky remained in Kyiv even as the capital seemed about to fall at the start of the war, and most Ukrainians quickly put politics aside to support their president.

“Putin, I hope you are watching this in real time,” Kira Rudik, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, posted on Twitter. “We. Will. Victory.”

At home, Mr. Zelensky’s trip received heavy coverage in most media outlets, offering a break from updates on power blackouts in Kyiv and fighting on the front lines.

“The fact is that the Ukrainian president has become a symbol of democracy and courage for Western voters,” reported Evropeiska Pravda, an online news site.

The trip helped shore up bipartisan support for Ukraine’s assistance in the United States, the outlet suggested in a commentary. “Voters, so many more American voters, heroes of love,” she said.

Timing is critical, said Mr. Tryhub, the ski instructor.

“Now, more than ever, we need the world’s support in the fight for independence,” he said. “The United States is one of the many countries that finally realized that without foreign support we cannot win. So we need help, especially since we have common values ​​like democracy and freedom.”

On his way back from Washington on Thursday, Mr. Zelensky landed in Poland, where, he saidmet with President Andrzej Duda.

Zelensky also recorded a video highlighting specific achievements that emerged from the talks with the Americans, including the weapons Ukraine will receive under the military aid package announced in Washington. That package included Patriot air defense missiles, which Putin dismissed as obsolete at his news conference on Thursday, but will be good news for Ukrainians, regularly terrorized by waves of Russian rocket attacks on electrical infrastructure.

“We are traveling with good results,” Zelensky said. “These results will really help.”

He pointed to the deal on the transfer of the Patriots to Ukraine and hinted at additional help that had yet to be announced. The Ukrainian leader said that he would talk about those other agreements later.

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia. The report was contributed by maria varenikova from Kyiv, Anton Troyanovsky Y erika solomon from Berlin, and Aurelien Breeden from Paris.

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