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Zelenskyy in a historic visit to Washington reports from the front

origin 1A hero’s welcome for Zelenskyy to the US Congress. ©Jacquelyn Martin/Copyright 2022 AP. All rights reserved.

The Ukrainian president gave American lawmakers a first-hand account of life on the front lines of Russia’s war against his country in Congress, drawing on his recent visit to Bakhmut.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered 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. Only a few civilians remain in this city now. Every inch of that land is drenched in blood, cannons roar every hour, trenches in the Donbas change hands multiple times a day in fierce fighting and even hand-to-hand combat, but the Ukrainian Donbas is holding on.

The Ukrainian president’s speech was met with thunderous applause and there was no sign of dissent, not even from Republicans, some of whom questioned an apparent “blank check” stance on arming the country in the face of Russian aggression. He presented lawmakers with a Ukrainian flag signed by frontline troops in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s disputed Donetsk province. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice Speaker Kamala Harris displayed the flag behind him at the podium. Pelosi, in turn, gave Zelensky an American flag that he had flown over the Capitol that day, and Zelensky waved it up and down as he walked out of the chamber.

Meeting at the White House

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

That support is underscored by the latest round of military and financial assistance given to Ukraine by the United States, which is by far the country’s biggest backer among Western allies. The latest shipments of weapons are said to include the long-awaited Patriot missile batteries, which will give Ukrainian citizens a better chance of surviving the bombardment of Russian missiles and shells.

President Biden, for his part, said Russia “is trying to use winter as a weapon, but the Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world.” During the press conference, he stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has 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 during the visit, though Zelenskyy has made it clear that he will continue to lobby Biden and other Western leaders for ever-increasing support.

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

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