Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was making his way to Washington on Wednesday for a summit with President Joe Biden and to address Congress in his first known trip outside the country since Russia’s invasion began in February.
Zelenskyy said on his Twitter account that the visit was “to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities” of Ukraine and discuss cooperation between his country and the U.S with Biden.
The highly sensitive trip is taking place after 10 months of a brutal war that has seen tens of thousands killed and wounded on both sides of the conflict, along with devastation for Ukrainian civilians. It also comes as U.S. lawmakers are set to vote on a year-end spending package that includes about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and as the Pentagon prepares to send Patriot surface-to-air missiles to the country to defend itself.
Zelenskyy headed abroad after making a daring and dangerous trip Tuesday to what he called the hottest spot on the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) front line of the conflict, the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province. He praised Ukrainian troops for their “courage, resilience and strength” as artillery boomed in the background.
Poland’s private broadcaster TVN24 said Zelenskyy crossed into Poland early Wednesday on his way to the U.S. The station showed footage of what appeared to be Zelenskyy arriving at a train station and being escorted to a motorcade. TVN24 said the video, which was partially blurred for security reasons, was shot Wednesday morning in Przemysl, a Polish border town that has been the arrival point for many refugees fleeing the war.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, in a statement Tuesday night, said that Biden looks forward to Zelenskyy’s visit and that the address to Congress will demonstrate “the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine.”