Zelensky heads home to Ukraine after welcoming hero in Washington: live updates

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In a joint session of Congress, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine had won a victory over Russia “in the battle for the minds of the world,” and he bluntly called for more military support from lawmakers.creditCredit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Kyiv, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine on Thursday after a high-profile visit to Washington, which was greeted primarily at home with pride and hope that his impassioned, personal appeals would keep American arms and financial support flowing.

Amid the darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have deprived millions of people of electricity as winter sets in – and after weeks of deadlock along much of the frontline – the president’s surprise trip has boosted morale in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians said they were delighted to see congressmen sing while Mr. Zelensky’s performance was accompanied by the patriotic salute “Honour to the heroes!”

“Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, we will be given everything, we will be helped,” wrote Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, in a post on Facebook.

Reached later by phone, Mr. Tryhub said he stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to listen to Mr. Zelenskyj’s address to a joint session of Congress, where the Ukrainian President received a standing ovation and presented Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a Ukrainian flag. signed by soldiers.

“This is without exaggeration a historic event,” he said of Mr. Zelenskyy’s visit, his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion in February.

“Now more than ever we need the support of the world in the fight for independence,” Mr. Tryhub added. “The United States is one of the many countries that has finally realized that we cannot win without foreign support. So we need help, especially since we have common values ​​like democracy and freedom.”

Credit…Tom Brenner for the New York Times

On his way back from Washington, Mr. Zelenskyj landed in Poland on Thursday, where he says he met President Andrzej Duda. He returned to Ukraine with at least one tangible gain: an additional $1.8 billion in military aid was announced Wednesday, including a Patriot missile battery, one of the country’s most advanced air defense systems.

But passage of an omnibus spending bill in Congress that would provide nearly $50 billion in additional funding for Ukraine was delayed Wednesday night over an immigration policy impasse.

Still, it was a largely triumphant, secretly planned visit for Mr Zelensky, a former comedian who was elected by a landslide victory in 2019 but whose popularity plummeted before Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February. Mr. Zelenskyy remained in Kyiv even though the capital seemed about to fall, and most Ukrainians quickly put politics aside to rally around their president.

“All my life I never imagined that the President of Ukraine would address the Congress,” writer Tetiana Bisyk tweeted Thursday, adding, “I’m so proud to be Ukrainian.”

Artur Bilous, a political analyst, wrote on Facebook that “no Ukrainian president has ever been so welcomed” in Washington, Mr Zelensky’s trip would ultimately be counted as a success if it helped speed up the flow of arms.

“Particularly how quickly military aid is being delivered, most notably the Patriot air defense system,” Mr. Bilous wrote.

Overall, the reaction in Ukraine has been one of pride and hope – and continued defiance of Russia.

“Putin I hope you see this in real time,” Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, tweeted, addressing Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. “We. Will. Win.”

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv.

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