Zelenskiy’s US visit to counter emerging opposition to support for Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelenskiy will use Biden invitation to bolster alliance as some in US criticise huge aid packages for Ukraine war

A few months ago Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s aides were adamant. The president would not go abroad until Russia was defeated. In the days after Vladimir Putin’s February invasion, as Russian tanks rolled towards Kyiv, Zelenskiy refused to flee. He turned down offers of assistance and told his citizens: “I’m here.” He also famously declared: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

On Wednesday, however, Zelenskiy was riding to Washington by plane at the personal invitation of President Joe Biden. It is his first foreign trip since Russia’s full-scale attack. It comes at a pivotal moment: on the battlefield, where Russian and Ukrainian troops are locked in a grinding face-off, and in the politically rancorous halls of the US Congress.

Zelenskiy is expected to speak there in a special address this evening. Up until recently, support for Ukraine has been a largely bipartisan affair. In March, Zelenskiy gave a video address to members of the House of Representatives and Senate, likening Russia’s onslaught to the agonies of Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The room went quiet. Some congresspeople wiped away tears.

Ten months later, and with the Republicans about to take control of the House of Representatives, there are signs this consensus is beginning to fracture. America-first conservatives have increasingly questioned the vast amounts of US aid – military and economic – being delivered to Ukraine. The influential Fox News host Tucker Carlson has repeated Kremlin talking points and joked he was “rooting” for Moscow.

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Russia, Ukraine, US