Russia-Ukraine war live: Zelenskiy to address US Congress on first foreign visit since outbreak of conflict

Key events

If you’re just joining us, my name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be taking you through Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s address to the US Congress, which is due to start in about 40 minutes’ time.

Questions? I’m on Twitter here.

Zelenskiy’s US visit so far

In his first foreign visit since the outbreak of the war in March this year, Zelenskiy has so far held a bilateral meeting with Joe Biden, after which the pair held a joint press conference.

Here are the main developments:

  • US president Joe Biden and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy held bilateral meetings at the White House today in which additional defence aid to Ukraine was discussed. Biden announced a new $1.58 billion aid package which will include a Patriot missile battery.

  • “It’s an honour to be by your side in united defense against what is a brutal, brutal war,” Biden told Zelenskiy ahead of their meeting. Zelenskiy went on to present Biden with a medal from a Ukrainian artillery captain on the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

  • The UN will allocate an additional $20m from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund to support over 300 civil society organizations and volunteer groups. “These groups have always been the backbone of the humanitarian response in Ukraine and even more since the war started in late February,” said Denise Brown, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.

  • In an overwhelming vote of 93-2, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Lynne M. Tracy as the new US ambassador to Russia on Wednesday. Tracy, a career diplomat of the US Foreign Service, “will be tasked with standing up to Putin,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said.

Timing, optics and Ukrainian colours

The 44-year-old Zelenskiy, a former comedian and actor, also will be visiting Washington on a day that the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed a new ambassador to Russia.

The optics of Zelenskiy receiving a hero’s welcome as a defender of democracy carries a message far deeper than military aid. It is meant to signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States and its Nato allies remain steadfastly behind Ukraine, despite recent signs of impatience among some Republican lawmakers over the rising cost.

When he enters through the House chamber’s double-wooden doors, the cheers will be accented by some lawmakers wearing blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Pelosi regularly wears a US and Ukraine flag pin.

Many of the House’s 435 members and the Senate’s 100 are expected to attend.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrived on Wednesday sporting a yellow tie and blue suit. In a Senate speech he described Zelenskiy as “a leader who is fighting for his life, fighting for his country’s survival and fighting to preserve the very idea of democracy.”

Zelenskiy’s two audiences

Speaking a short while ago on CBS, congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane explained that Zelenskiy will be addressing two audiences during his speech today.

The first is Congress as a whole, as lawmakers prepare to vote on a bill to provide tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine. The second is a House Republican Conference, which will take the majority on 3 January.

“Some members have been debating whether they want to continue such robust funding for Ukraine,” McFarlane said.

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s in-person address to the US Congress.

My name is Helen Sullivan, and I’ll be taking you through the address live, providing context and analysis with the help of my colleagues in the US and abroad.

If you have questions or comments, get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Zelenskiy will be delivering his remarks in English, as he tries to convince US lawmakers to pass a bill that will grant tens of billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine.

Republican lawmakers have shown signs of impatience with the ongoing and robust level of funding for the war and with Republicans due to take the majority in the House in 12 days, Zelenskiy’s job this afternoon in Washington is to convince them that the aid is worthwhile.

It is almost 6pm in Washington, and Zelenskiy is due to begin his address in an hour’s time. Stay tuned as we tell you what to expect – and go into more detail on what is at stake.

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