Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Addresses US Military Officers in Washington

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation at the National Defense University in Washington Monday after he addressed U.S. military officers, kicking off a visit to Washington aimed at persuading Congress to provide more military aid to Ukraine before funding runs out.

In his speech, Zelenskyy emphasized the importance of defeating Russia in Ukraine because he said, if Russia wins in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop there.

“His [Putin’s] weapon against you right now is propaganda and disinformation. But if he sees a chance, he’ll go further,” he said. “Now he’s shifting Russia’s economy and society on[to’ what he calls ‘war tracks.’”

Zelenskyy said freedom must prevail when challenged and thanked Americans for the support.

“The whole world is watching us. … Ukraine hasn’t given up and won’t give up. We know what to do, and you can count on Ukraine. And we hope, just as much to be able to count on you,” he said.

The Ukrainian president said that, so far, Ukrainian forces have taken back 50% of the territory they lost to Russia, and he pointed to the perseverance of Ukrainian “warriors” on the battleground.

“Right now, amid fierce battles, our soldiers are holding positions on the front and preparing for further actions, and we haven’t let Russia score any victory this year.” But he stressed “we have to win in the sky.”

In his remarks at the National Defense University, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin maintained that U.S. support in Ukraine is unshakeable and warned, “If we do not stand up [to] the Kremlin’s aggression today, if we do not deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite more aggression, more bloodshed and more chaos.”

“Now despite his crimes, and despite his isolation, Putin still believes that he can outlast Ukraine, and that he can outlast America. But he is wrong,” Austin said.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Kristalina Georgieva will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Washington on Monday, an IMF spokesperson said, as the fund’s executive board prepared to release more funds from the country’s $15.6 billion loan program.

The IMF last month announced a staff-level agreement with Ukraine on updated economic and financial policies, paving the way for a $900 million disbursement once it is finalized by the board.

At the time, the IMF said the Ukrainian economy continued to show “remarkable resilience” despite Russia’s invasion in February 2022, with recent developments pointing to a stronger-than-expected economic recovery in 2023 and continued growth in 2024.

On Tuesday, Zelenskyy is expected to go to Capitol Hill and to meet with Biden at the White House.

Biden has asked Congress for a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel, along with other national security priorities. Ukraine would get over $61 billion of the money.

But Republicans in the U.S. Senate have balked at the legislation, saying major U.S. border security changes are needed.

Some Republicans are asking for the immediate deportation of illegal migrants, stripping them of a chance to seek U.S. asylum. They have also called for greatly scaling back Biden administration programs that have allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the U.S. lawfully.

The U.S. has already provided Ukraine $111 billion for its fight against Russia’s 2022 invasion.

Zelenskyy’s visit is intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion,” the White House said in a statement Sunday.

The stakes are especially high for Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during television interviews Sunday, given that “we are running out of funding” for the Ukrainians.

He also pointed out that 90% of the money that goes to Ukraine’s assistance is invested in the U.S.

“In terms of the production of materials and munitions and weapons that go to the Ukrainians, it’s right here, in America,” he said.

Russian submarines

Putin inspected two nuclear submarines, the Krasnoyarsk and Emperor Alexander III, at the Sevmash shipbuilding yard at the arctic port of Severodvinsk, in a televised ceremony Monday.

The Emperor Alexander III is part of Russia’s new Borei (Arctic Wind) class of nuclear submarines, the first new generation Russia has launched since the Cold War.

Last month, the defense ministry said the vessel had successfully tested a nuclear-capable Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile.

Security analysts say nuclear arms have assumed a greater importance in Putin’s thinking and rhetoric since the start of the Ukraine conflict, where his conventional forces are locked in a grinding war of attrition with no end in sight.

Polish protests

Meanwhile, a month-long blockade by protesting Polish truck drivers has been partially lifted at one border crossing between Ukraine and Poland, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook Monday.

So far, 15 trucks had passed into Ukraine through the Yahodyn-Dorohusk crossing while 25 trucks were being cleared to head the other way toward Poland, said Kubrakov.

Blockades continued to stop traffic on three other crossings.

Polish truckers have been pushing to stop Ukrainian drivers from getting permit-free access to the EU, accusing their Ukrainian counterparts of using their permit-free access to undercut prices.

They said the protest had not ended and they were just waiting temporarily for details of a reported local order against one stoppage.

The Polish protest, which started in early November, has blocked four main land routes between the two neighbors, pushed up prices of fuel and some food items in Ukraine and delayed drone deliveries to Ukrainian troops fighting invading Russian forces.

Ukraine’s customs service said Monday 1,000 trucks were waiting to get into Ukraine from Poland and 100 trucks would go in the opposite direction.

Also, Slovak truckers resumed a partial blockade of the country’s sole freight road crossing with Ukraine Monday afternoon, the Ukrainian border service said, while Hungarian haulers are also blocking crossings to Ukraine to protest Ukrainian truckers’ EU permit-free access to Hungary.

VOA’s Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.