Update 1: Adds congress appearance, changes headline
Washington, Dec 21 (EFE).- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Wednesday to the United States congress that their support is “vital” not only to resist the Russian invasion, but to achieve a “turning point” in the battlefield and to hasten victory.
“Ukraine stands on its lines and will never surrender,” he said in his speech at a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, where he was greeted with applause and cheers.
In his long-awaited speech, which lasted half an hour and was interrupted several times by applause from the chamber, he made it clear that the aid granted should not be seen as a show of charity, but rather as an “investment” in democracy.
“It is a battle not only for the life, freedom and security of Ukraine and of any other nation that Russia tries to conquer. This will define the world in which we are going to live,” he said, confident that Ukraine has already won the support of the people and now they must also emerge victorious at the front.
US aid is crucial to “reach a turning point” in this conflict, Zelenskyy said, adding that “Ukraine has not fallen against all odds and is alive and kicking,” but also that it needs more funding and weapons to continue on foot.
“Ukraine has never asked US soldiers to fight for us on our territory. I guarantee that our military can perfectly operate US tanks and planes,” he said.
Zelenskyy on Wednesday in Washington proposed to his US host and counterpart, Joe Biden, “concrete steps” to achieve peace in Kyiv’s war to defend against Russia’s invasion, but steps that do not place the sovereignty of Ukrainian territory in question.
Repeatedly, at the two leaders’ joint press conference after their meeting, Zelenskyy said unambiguously that a “just peace” would include “no compromise on territory” that has been illegally annexed by Russia – referring to the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 – or taken by military force since the Kremlin launched its invasion of the neighboring country on Feb. 24.
The Ukrainian leader said that he had discussed with Biden imposing sanctions against “these terrorists from Russia” so that Moscow is held to account for the invasion but he also said that it is “very important” to find a formula whereby peace can be achieved.
He said that had outlined for the US leader “very specific” steps whereby Washington can help Ukraine obtain peace, proposing a formula for a “peace summit.”
“I think … we share the exact same vision, and that a free, independent, prosperous and secure Ukraine is the vision – we both want this war to end,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
He said that the only way in which Ukraine says it will enter into peace talks with Russia is if it defeats the invading forces, and he promised that the US will keep arming the Ukrainian military with an eye toward achieving that end.
“You don’t need to worry,” he said to Zelensky, standing beside him at the twin podiums in the East Room and wearing his trademark combat-green sweatshirt, green fatigue trousers and boots. “We are staying with Ukraine as long as Ukraine is there.”
Biden praised Zelenskyy for being “open” to seeking peace, in contrast – he said – to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, about whom he said “he’s not going to do that.”
Biden said that Russia is not going to withdraw its military forces from Ukrainian territory at this time and thus the US and its allies will continue helping Ukraine on the battlefield.
“(Russia) is purposely attacking Ukraine critical infrastructure, destroying the system to provide heat and light (to) Ukrainian people during the coldest, darkest part of the year. Russia is using winter as a weapon, freezing people, starving people, cutting them off from one another,” Biden said.
This is Zelenskyy’s first trip abroad since Russia launched its invasion in late February, and the trip is being made amid heavy security and with closely-held travel plans.
Shortly before the Ukrainian leader arrived in Washington, the Biden administration announced a new $1.85 billion package of military aid for the beleaguered East European nation, including one battery of Patriot ground-to-air missiles, which Zelenskyy had been requesting for months to better be able to defend against Russia’s ongoing massive bombardment of cities and civilian infrastructure.
At their joint news conference, Biden said that the Patriot ground-to-air system is “defensive,” and not “escalatory.”