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Zelenskyy and Biden emphasize their partnership ahead of congressional address

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press briefing after the International Summit on Food Security in Kyiv on Nov. 26 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Genya Savilov
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press briefing after the International Summit on Food Security in Kyiv on Nov. 26 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Updated December 21, 2022 at 6:10 PM ET

Follow live updates on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's trip here.

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy underscored their continued partnership against Russia in the war in Ukraine during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

In a joint press conference, Biden said Zelenskyy's trip came amid escalated attacks from Russia targeting infrastructure.

"It's important for the American people and for the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about the fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023," Biden said.

"We understand in our bones that Ukraine's fight is part of something much bigger," Biden said, condemning the "atrocities" committed by Russia in its attacks on the country.

Ahead of Zelenskyy's arrival, the Defense Department announced $1.85 billion in new security aid, including a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery. The United States will train Ukraine's military how to use the Patriot in a third country, an administration official said, noting it will take time before it is operational in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said his trip was aimed at thanking Americans for their support, calling it a historic moment in the relationship between the two countries.

"Every dollar of this investment for the United States is going to be strengthening of global security," he said. "We need to survive this winter, we need to protect our people," he said.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the White House on Wednesday.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
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Getty Images
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the White House on Wednesday.

Next on the itinerary: addressing Congress

Zelenskyy is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Watch his remarks live here.

His visit comes as lawmakers are preparing to vote on an omnibus spending bill that includes $44.9 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies.

The U.S. has been a strong ally of Ukraine in its war against Russia. So far, lawmakers have provided over $65 billion in aid to Ukraine, including humanitarian aid.

Some Republicans in the House have expressed concern about the billions of dollars of military and economic aid sent to the country since the war began. In October, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said he was wary about giving Ukraine a "blank check." McCarthy is poised to become speaker of the House in January.

A senior administration official insisted on a call with reporters that the fanfare around the visit was not aimed at quelling complaints about the spending.

"This isn't about sending a message to a particular political party — this is about sending a message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and sending a message to the world that America will be there for Ukraine for as long as it takes," the official said, noting the size of the congressional package demonstrates that there is "broad, deep and bipartisan" support for the aid.

Zelenskyy previously addressed Congress via video from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in March. He called on lawmakers to send additional support at that time, too. This time, he will be making his appeal in person.

During the press conference with Biden, Zelenskyy said he believes there is bipartisan and bicameral support to aid Ukraine, and he is not concerned about a lack of continued support from the U.S. in a divided Congress next year.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.
Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.