Speed Reads

18 Ovations

'Your money is not charity': Zelensky ends whirlwind D.C. visit with ovation-filled address to Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ended a surprise 10-hour visit to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday with a 25-minute speech, in English, before a joint session of Congress. Zelensky told lawmakers that Ukraine is still "alive and kicking" 10 months after Russia's invasion and will "never surrender." He thanked President Biden, both parties in both houses of Congress, and the American people for the billions in economic and military assistance they have given Ukraine, and he said Ukraine needs more aid to win.

"Your money is not charity," Zelensky said. "It's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way." This battle against anti-democratic tyranny "cannot be frozen or postponed, it cannot be ignored hoping that the ocean or something else will provide protection," he added. "So much depends on the world. So much in the world depends on you."

Zelensky's speech was received with enthusiasm from the vast majority of lawmakers present, who gave him 18 standing ovations, The Washington Post reports. He gave Congress a Ukrainian battle flag signed by frontline soldiers in Bakhmut, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave him an American flag that had flown over the Capitol on Wednesday. 

Zelensky earlier Wednesday had met with Biden in the White House, where they held a joint press conference. "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, though Zelensky made clear he will continue to press Biden and other Western leaders for ever more support," The Associated Press reports

Biden announced a $1.8 billion military aid package, notably including a Patriot air defense battery, at the press conference. Zelensky said that once his troops are trained and the system is up and running, "we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots." Amid laughter, he added, "We are in the war. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." Biden drew laughs in his response to a question from a Ukrainian journalist about why the U.S. can't just give Ukraine everything it wants now. 

"We understand in our bones that Ukraine's fight is part of something much bigger," Biden said. "The American people know if we stand by with such blatant attacks on democracy and liberty . . . the world would surely face worse consequences."

You can watch a brief recap of Zelensky's trip to Washington below.