Washington: When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy left his war-torn nation for the first time since the Russian invasion 300 days prior, he was greeted with a hero's welcome here.
Zelensky, 44, met US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday, and the two spoke at a press conference there. On a day filled with numerous meetings back-to-back, he was awarded the uncommon honour of speaking before a joint session of the US Congress.
"(your) leadership through this terrible crisis has inspired the Ukrainian people, as you have done, President, and the American people and the entire world," Biden told him at a joint news conference at the White House.
"As we head into the New Year, it's important for the American people and for the world to hear directly from you, President, about Ukraine's fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023," Biden said.
300 days since Russia invaded Ukraine
Zelenskyy's visit also commemorates 300 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, which Biden characterised as an unwarranted, unjustified assault on the country's free people.
Zelenskyy, who throughout the day had meetings with top American leadership, told reporters that he came to the United States to "thank -- the word of thanks to the people of America'', people who do so much for Ukraine.
"I am thankful for all of this. This visit to the United States became a really historic one for our relations with the United States and the American leadership," he said.
Zelenskyy gave Biden a Ukrainian military medal: The Cross for Military Merit. This particular medal was awarded earlier this year to a Ukrainian officer for outstanding feats on the battlefield.
The officer met earlier this week with President Zelenskyy in Bakhmut and asked him to give his medal to Biden as a token of his profound gratitude. The officer also wrote Biden a letter expressing Ukraine's appreciation for America's assistance that helped keep many people in Ukraine alive.
Biden gave Zelenskyy two command coins. One is for the Ukrainian hero that wanted the President to have his medal and one is for President Zelenskyy.
"Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn't fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking," he told a joint meeting of Congress Wednesday night," Zelenskyy said in his address to the US Congress, wherein he thanked the United States and its people for the billions of dollars in military aid.
Your money is not charity but an investment, says Zelensky
"Your money is not charity. It is an investment in global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way," he said.
On Wednesday the US announced another security assistance package of USD1.85 billion. This includes the Patriot missile system, which is said to be the most advanced ground-based air defence system.
"We Ukrainians will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success," Zelensky said in his Congressional address, during which he unveiled a Ukrainian flag to the Congress.
"It (flag) is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight, and we will win because we are a united Ukraine, America and the entire free world," Zelenskyy said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also presented an American flag to the visiting president
"Today, at this time, here we are today to welcome the brave, courageous President Zelenskyy in order to praise not only him, but the courageous, unified people of Ukraine for what they are doing to protect democracy," Pelosi said in a joint media appearance with Zelenskyy.
"Over the last ten months since the invasion you, President, and the Ukrainian people have met Putin's brutality with a strong will. Your visit comes as Congress prepares to again pass another consequential round of security, economic, and humanitarian assistance. Within the next 48 hours, hopefully, this will be done," she said.
"And I want to applaud President Biden's plans to deliver a Patriot air defence system, additional HIMARS, and other vital military equipment. We are very, very pleased with that decision by the president and the determination to get that done. And I give tribute to you, President, for making the case so clearly about how this is needed," Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said for ten months, the Ukrainian people have put up a valiant fight against Russia's renewed aggression-and that few thought they could win, but here they are, still standing.
"That is in part due to President Zelenskyy's tireless leadership and courageous fight for his country. In fact, just earlier this week, President Zelenskyy was at the front lines of this war fighting alongside his fellow Ukrainians in Bakhmut," Durbin said.
On February 24, Russian President Putin launched a "special military operation" aimed at "demilitarisation and denazification" of Ukraine.
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