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Biden and Zelenskyy present united front at White House as U.S. readies more aid for Ukraine

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Biden and Zelenskyy's joint press conference
Special Report: Biden and Zelenskyy hold joint press conference on war in Ukraine 43:25

Washington — President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented a united front against Russian aggression at the White House on Wednesday, with Mr. Biden announcing the U.S. will send billions of dollars in more military aid to bolster Ukrainian forces and repel Russian airstrikes.

At a press conference, the U.S. president said he would continue to support Ukraine "as long as it takes," and denounced Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure as the brutal winter cold sets in.

"We should be clear about what Russia is doing — it is purposefully attacking Ukraine's critical infrastructure, destroying the systems that provide heat and light to the Ukrainian people during the coldest, darkest part of the year. Russia is using winter as a weapon," Mr. Biden said, standing next to Zelenskyy in the White House East Room. "It's 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."

Asked what message he had for the American people, Zelenskyy emphasized that "we have the same values."

"We really fight for our common victory against this tyranny. And that is real life. And we will win. And I really want [to] win together. Not want — I am sure," said Zelenskyy, who alternated between speaking in English and Ukrainian.

U.S. President Biden welcomes Ukraine's President Zelenskiy at the White House in Washington
President Biden and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Dec. 21, 2022. KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS

Zelenskyy's visit to Washington was his first known trip outside Ukraine in the 300 days since the Russian invasion began. Mr. Biden rolled out the red carpet for his Ukrainian counterpart, who wore a now-familiar uniform consisting of an olive-green sweatshirt, cargo pants and boots. The two first held a meeting in the Oval Office, where Mr. Biden said the U.S. "stands with the great people of Ukraine" and called Zelenskyy a "great leader."

After his meetings at the White House, Zelenskyy left for Capitol Hill, where he was set to meet with congressional leaders and address a joint meeting of Congress.

The trip came together just within the last week, and the plans were cloaked in secrecy given the extraordinary security concerns that come with a wartime leader traveling outside his country. 

Sitting in the Oval Office, Zelenskyy said it was a "great honor" to be welcomed to the White House, and expressed his appreciation "from my heart, from the hearts of Ukrainians, all Ukrainians" for Mr. Biden's "support and leadership."

In a moment that seemed to catch Mr. Biden off guard, Zelenskyy presented him with a combat medal that a Ukrainian captain fighting on the front lines had given him. "He's very brave, and he said, 'Give it to a very brave president,'" Zelenskyy said, noting that the captain commands a unit using a weapons system provided by the U.S.

Shortly before Zelenskyy arrived, the State Department unveiled a new military aid package for Ukraine worth $1.85 billion, bringing the total military aid sent to Ukraine to $22 billion. In a first, the U.S. is sending the Ukrainians a Patriot missile battery, a sophisticated air defense system that can repel Russian missiles and aircraft. The new package also includes hundred of thousands of mortars and artillery shells, dozens of armored vehicles and specialized kits that greatly enhance the effectiveness and accuracy of bombs dropped from fighter jets. 

"We're going to continue to strengthen Ukraine's ability to defend itself, particularly air defense," Mr. Biden said. "And that's why we're going to be providing Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery and training your forces to be able to accurately use it."

The Ukrainian president's speech to Congress comes as U.S. lawmakers work to pass a sweeping $1.7 trillion government spending package that includes nearly $45 billion in military, humanitarian and economic assistance for Ukraine. If approved by Congress, it would be the latest tranche of emergency assistance provided to Ukraine.

Lawmakers have allocated more than $65 billion in total aid, which includes financial and humanitarian assistance, to Ukraine since the invasion, though some House Republicans have expressed opposition to continuing direct funding to the country. The new funding would bring U.S. assistance to over $100 billion. 

 

Biden vows the U.S. will give Ukraine what it needs "to succeed on the battlefield"

President Biden Hosts News Conference With President Volodymyr Zelensky Of Ukraine At The White House
President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House on Dec. 21, 2022. Alex Wong / Getty Images

In the final question to Mr. Biden and Zelenskyy, a reporter asked whether the U.S. could give Ukraine everything it needs to liberate the Russian-held territories swiftly, prompting a light-hearted back-and-forth between the two leaders.

"His answer is yes," the U.S. president said.

"I agree," Zelenskyy replied, prompting laughter.

Mr. Biden then stressed that the U.S. has provided more than $20 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in late February, but that its success in forcing Russia to retreat hinged on the broader support from NATO and European Union allies.

"Why don't we just give Ukraine everything there is to give? For two reasons," he said. "One: There is an entire alliance that is critical to stay with Ukraine, and the idea that we would give Ukraine material that is fundamentally different than is already going there would have a prospect of breaking up NATO and the European Union and the rest of the world."

Mr. Biden continued: "We're going to give Ukraine what it needs to be able to defend itself, to be able to succeed, and to succeed on the battlefield."

The president said that he has spent an extensive amount of time speaking with European leaders to urge them to continue their support for Ukraine, but said they do not want to go to war with Russia.

"We are staying with Ukraine as long as Ukraine is there," Mr. Biden pledged.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Zelenskyy draws laughs with quip about asking for more Patriot missile systems

Zelenskyy again expressed his appreciation for American support for his country's war effort. said he came to Washington to meet with Mr. Biden because "I respect him as a person, as a president, as a human being for his position. And for me, this is a historic moment."

Zelenskyy noted that he and the president are in frequent communication, and joked about eventually asking him to send more Patriot missile systems to protect Ukrainian skies. 

"You said, 'What's going to happen after Patriots are installed?' After that, we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots," he said in Ukrainian, eliciting laughter in the audience. 

"That is our life, we are in war. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry," Zelenskyy said in English.

By Stefan Becket
 

Biden says Putin is "going to fail"

Mr. Biden asserted that Putin is "going to fail," despite the Russian president's continued assault into the winter. 

"He's failed in the past and it's very important for him and everyone else to see that President Zelenskyy and I are united, two countries together to make sure that he cannot succeed," Mr. Biden said. 

Mr. Biden praised Zelenskyy as a man who "to his very soul, is who he says he is," and is "willing to give his life for his country." 

Additionally, Mr. Biden said they would "love" for Ukraine not to have to use the Patriot missile defense system the U.S. is giving the country. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Zelenskyy say a "just peace" maintains Ukraine's sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity

Asked whether there is a fair way to end the war brought by Russia and about a "just peace," Zelenskyy reiterated that U.S. leadership is "strong," but that the Ukrainian people have also been protected by Ukraine's armed forces.

"For me as a president, just peace is no compromise as to the sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity of my country," Zelenskyy said. "The payback for all the damages inflicted by Russian aggression."

Zelenskyy described the Russians who invaded his country and targeted civilians as "inhuman."

Mr. Biden echoed that the vision is a "free, independent, prosperous and secure Ukraine," but said Russian President Vladimir Putin could end the war if he "had any dignity at all and did the right thing."

"What comes next?" the U.S. president said, adding that it involves continuing to help Ukraine notch wins on the battlefield.

"If and when President Zelenskyy is ready to talk with the Russians, he will be able to succeed as well because he will have won on the battlefield," Mr. Biden said. 

By Melissa Quinn
 

Biden "not at all worried" about strength of alliance against Russia

A reporter asked Mr. Biden if he is concerned that the international backing Ukraine will begin to fray.

"I'm not at all worried about holding the alliance," Mr. Biden said, adding that he sees "no sign" the United Nations or NATO weakening in their support for Ukraine. 

"We all know what's at stake here," Mr. Biden said. "Putin thought he would weaken NATO. Instead he strengthened NATO."

By Kathryn Watson
 

Zelenskyy: "We need to survive this winter"

In brief opening remarks through a translator, Zelenskyy reiterated the purpose of his visit to Washington — to thank Mr. Biden and Congress for providing bicameral and bipartisan support for continued assistance to Ukraine.

"This visit to the United States became a historic one," the Ukrainian president said. "In the last [300] days of this war, we have started a new face of our inter-relations with the United States. We became real partners and allies."

Zelenskyy said he hopes to ensure Ukraine continues to combat Russia from a position of strength as it enters the second year of the war, and urged Congress to approve the $45 billion assistance to his country included in the $1.7 trillion omnibus package.

"Every dollar of this investment from the United States is going to strengthening of global security," he said. "I know that the American leadership will be strong and will play an important role …and the United States will help us to defend our values and independence."

Noting the change of party control of the House in the coming weeks, when Republicans will take hold of the lower chamber, Zelenskyy said he is confident there will be bipartisan support for additional assistance to Ukraine. 

"We need to survive this winter. We need to protect our people," he said.

Zeleskyy reiterated his characterization of Russia as a "terrorist country" and the need for Russia to be held accountable for its aggression against innocent Ukrainian people.

"Glory to Ukraine," he said to conclude his opening remarks. 

By Melissa Quinn
 

Biden kicks off press conference, saying Ukraine "has defied Russia's expectations at every single turn"

Mr. Biden opened up the joint press conference with Zelenskyy by noting the two have been in close communication throughout this conflict, and said it's particularly meaningful to "look each other in the eye" in person for the first time since Russia launched its assault on Ukraine. 

"As we head into the new year, it's 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 throughout 2023," Mr. Biden told Zelenskyy. 

Mr. Biden told the Ukrainian people they have stood strong in the face of autocrats, adding that Americans from "every walk of life" have provided "unequivocal" and "unbending" support for the people of Ukraine.

More than 50 nations have committed tanks, artillery systems and billions of dollars to make sure Ukraine has the military and humanitarian resources it needs, the president said.

"From the very beginning, the United States rallied allies and partners from around the world to stand strong with Ukraine" and impose "unprecedented" sanctions on Russia, Mr. Biden said. 

Mr. Biden said Ukraine's performance on the battlefield has stymied Russia's efforts and shattered expectations, even as Putin has "no intention" to stop the "brutal" war.

"We should be clear about what Russia is doing — it is purposefully attacking Ukraine's critical infrastructure, destroying the systems that provide heat and light to the Ukrainian people during the coldest, darkest part of the year. Russia is using winter as a weapon," the president said.

Still, "Ukraine has won the battle of Kyiv, has won the battle of Kherson, has won the battle of Kharkiv," he noted. "Ukraine has defied Russia's expectations at every single turn."

The president said he "looks forward" to signing Congress' omnibus spending bill, which includes $45 billion in additional support for Ukraine.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Zelenskyy thanks Biden for U.S. support in Oval Office meeting

Zelenskyy thanks Biden for U.S. support for Ukraine during White House visit 06:47

The two world leaders began their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with Mr. Biden saying he's honored to be at Zelenskyy's side. 

Mr. Biden said it's hard to believe it's been 300 days since Russia launched its assault on the Ukrainian people. Mr. Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to use "winter as a weapon." 

"The Ukrainian people continue to inspire the world. I mean that sincerely. Not just inspire us but inspire the world with their courage and how they have [shown] the resilience and resolve for their future," the president said.

The American people, Democrats and Republicans alike, stand proudly with Ukrainians, Mr. Biden said. 

"We're going to continue to strengthen Ukraine's ability to defend itself, particularly air defense," Mr. Biden said, adding that's why the U.S. is giving Ukraine the Patriot missile defense system. 

Mr. Biden called Zelenskyy the man of the year in the U.S., referencing the designation bestowed upon Zelenskyy by Time magazine.

For his part, Zelenskyy said he wanted to make the trip sooner but the situation was too difficult. He expressed his appreciation for the United States' support under Mr. Biden's leadership. He also expressed his gratitude to Congress for approving funding. 

"Thanks from ordinary people to your ordinary people, Americans. I really appreciate it," Zelenskyy said. 

Zelenskyy then presented Mr. Biden with a Ukrainian captain's combat award, saying the soldier wanted Mr. Biden to have it.

President Biden Hosts Ukrainian President Zelenskiy
President Joe Biden holds a Ukrainian soldier's medal presented to him by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office on Dec. 21, 2022.  Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Undeserved, but much appreciated," Mr. Biden said of the soldier's award he was being given. 

Mr. Biden said he and his late veteran son, Beau Biden, had a tradition of giving each other challenge coins. He said he would give one for Zelenskyy to pass along to the soldier. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Bidens welcome Zelenskyy to the White House

Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the Ukrainian president to the White House on the South Lawn shortly after 2 p.m. ahead of the leaders' 2:30 p.m. meeting. 

Both the American and the Ukrainian flag adorned the White House as Zelenskyy emerged from an SUV, wearing an olive-green sweatshirt.

Zelenskyy shook hands with the Bidens and posed for a photograph before Mr. Biden, one arm around Zelenskyy's shoulder, ushered him inside. 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Zelenskyy lands in the U.S.

A White House official confirmed Zelenskyy has landed in the U.S. Events scheduled for the afternoon are set to be on time, the official said.

Zelenskyy shared photos on Instagram of his arrival at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where he was met by Rufus Gifford, chief of protocol for the U.S., and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova.

zelensky-dc.jpg
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives in the U.S. on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Instagram

"I am in Washington today to thank the American people, the President and the Congress for their much-needed support. And also to continue cooperation to bring our victory closer," Zelenskyy wrote in a caption accompanying the photos. "I will hold a series of negotiations to strengthen the resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine. In particular, we will discuss bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and the United States of America with US President Joseph Biden."

He continued: "Next year, we must return the Ukrainian flag and freedom to our entire land, to all our people."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Senate confirms new U.S. ambassador to Russia ahead of Zelenskyy address

As Zelenskyy arrived in the U.S., the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Lynne Tracy as U.S. ambassador to Russia in a 93 to 2 vote. GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky opposed the nomination.

Tracy replaces John Sullivan as the top American diplomat in Russia. Sullivan, who was appointed to the post by former President Donald Trump, stepped down as ambassador in September. 

A career member of the Foreign Service, Tracy was most recently U.S. ambassador to Armenia, and served as senior adviser for Russia Affairs at the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Ahead of the confirmation vote, Schumer highlighted the Senate's timing for approving Tracey as ambassador before Zelenskyy's speech and said it underscores U.S. support for Ukraine.

"By passing this omnibus and by confirming a new ambassador, we can send President Zelenskyy back to Ukraine with the message that the Senate, the Congress and the American people stand unequivocally behind the people of Ukraine, and we're backing that up with real dollars and real resources," he said, referencing the $1.7 trillion spending package that includes $45 billion in aid to Ukraine.

By Melissa Quinn
 

U.S. announces $1.85 billion aid package, including Patriot missile battery

The State Department said the new U.S. aid package would total $1.85 billion, comprising $1 billion in new funding approved by the White House and $850 million from the Defense Department. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the latest round of military assistance will include the Patriot air defense system, which is effective in bringing down cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles and aircraft. The technology is something Ukraine has long asked for, especially as Russia has ramped up its aerial assaults.

Blinken used his "drawdown" authority delegated by the president to release $1 billion in funding that Congress has already approved. 

In addition to the Patriot system, the aid package includes hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds and mortars; 37 mine-resistant vehicles; 2,700 grenade launchers and small arms; and "Joint Direct Attack Munitions," which the State Department said would provide "the Ukrainian Air Force with enhanced precision strike capabilities against Russia's invading forces."

The U.S. has provided about $22 billion in military assistance to Ukraine alone since the war began, on top of tens of billions of dollars in financial and humanitarian assistance.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Pelosi urges all members to attend Zelenskyy address

In a letter to colleagues, Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged all members of the House to attend Zelenskyy's address in the House chamber, saying the speech will be "etched into history as well as part of your legacy."

"As the fight for freedom in Ukraine wages on, we look forward to hearing his inspiring message of courage, unity and determination," the speaker said.

Pelosi said the evening is "fraught with meaning for me."

"My father, Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., was a Member of the House in 1941 when Winston Churchill came to the Congress on the day after Christmas to enlist our nation's support in the fight against tyranny in Europe," she wrote. "Eighty-one years later this week, it is particularly poignant for me to be present when another heroic leader addresses the Congress in a time of war — and with Democracy itself on the line."

The speaker noted that there "will be no guests allowed in the House Gallery – with the exception of official guests of President Zelenskyy."

By Stefan Becket
 

H.R. McMaster discusses Zelenskyy's U.S. visit

CBS News foreign policy and national security contributor H.R. McMaster joined Errol Barnett and Aziza Schuler to discuss what's at stake for Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travels to Washington to meet with Mr. Biden and address Congress. Watch his analysis in the video below:

H.R. McMaster discusses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's U.S. visit 07:27
 

Schumer on Zelenskyy's visit: "This is a day to remember" in history of Congress

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the upcoming arrival of Zelenskyy to the U.S., calling him an "ambassador of freedom" and highlighting that the Ukrainian leader will deliver his remarks from the same place British Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself delivered a wartime address to U.S. lawmakers in 1941.

"This will be a day to remember in the history of the United States Congress when we welcome President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine," said Schumer, wearing Ukraine's colors of blue and yellow. "It's always a high honor to welcome a foreign head of state to Congress, but it's nearly unheard of to hear from a leader who is fighting for his life, fighting for his country's survival, and fighting to preserve the very idea of democracy. It shows the importance President Zelenskyy places on us continuing to give robust help."

The visit by Zelenskyy, who will address lawmakers in a joint meeting Wednesday evening, comes as the Senate is moving toward a vote on final passage of the omnibus package, which includes $45 billion for Ukraine. Schumer noted the Ukrainian leader's arrival comes at a "crucial moment" for the Senate, and he urged his colleagues to complete their work swiftly.

The New York Democrat also encouraged House Republicans to attend Zelenskyy's speech to hear him "describe the horror his people have endured at the hands of Vladimir Putin." While emergency aid to Ukraine has largely received broad bipartisan support in the Senate, some GOP members of the House have balked at sending more U.S. dollars to the country. 

That opposition, and with Republicans poised to take control of the House next month, has led to uncertainty as to whether more aid packages for Ukraine would win approval from the next Congress.

"I hope that Donald Trump's friendship with Putin is not motivating House Republicans to turn a blind eye to Ukraine's suffering and desperate need for help," Schumer said. "Because the so-called friendship between Putin and Trump was a sour relationship that was deeply damaging to our country and to the international order."

The majority leader praised the success of Ukrainian fighters in forcing Russia's retreat from key cities and said it shows "American support is working."

"To date, our funding has put more weapons in Ukrainian hands and more victories under their belt," Schumer said.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Harris to join Biden for meeting with Zelenskyy

Vice President Kamala Harris will join Mr. Biden for the bilateral meeting with Zelenskyy at the White House, her office said.

By Melissa Quinn
 

What Zelenskyy hopes to accomplish in Washington

Mr. Biden formally extended an invitation to Zelenskyy last Wednesday, and he accepted last Friday. Pelosi's office was informed of the visit over the weekend, setting in motion elaborate plans for Wednesday's big events. CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe reports:

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy set to visit White House, address Congress 02:30
 

Biden "thrilled" to have Zelenskyy in U.S.

Mr. Biden responded to the Ukrainian president's tweet, saying he is "thrilled to have you here":

By Stefan Becket
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