US President Joe Biden received Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was dressed in military fatigues befitting a war-time leader, at the White House in an unmistakable reiteration of US support for the beleaguered nation as it continues to defy Russia's superior military prowess.
In remarks from the Oval Office, Biden on Wednesday said he was "delighted" to receive Zelensky, who, in turn, offered "all my appreciations from my heart and from the heart of all Ukrainians".
The Ukrainian President is scheduled to address a joint session of the US Congress, which is considering a nearly $50 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine.
While US aid to Ukraine has received bipartisan support, some Republicans are coming out in opposition of it, and are calling for an end to it. Zelensky will have them in his mind during his address as he seeks to return home reassured of continued US support and that of the Western alliance it leads.
This is Zelensky's first visit outside Ukraine after the Russian invasion, and his second to the US. His previous visit to the US was in September 2021, which came after months of testy relationship with the then President Donald Trump, who had held out the promise of a White House in exchange "for a favour", essentially help in implicating Biden's son, who had had business dealings with a Ukrainian company during his father's vice-presidency.
The Ukrainian President did not oblige and Trump denied him a White House visit, though they did meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Trump was impeached for the "favour" request made during a controversial phone call between the two leaders.
A senior Biden administration official, who previewed the visit for reporters did not attach much importance to the timing of the meeting, saying there is "no mathematical formula" behind it and said the two leaders will "have an in-depth strategic discussion on the way ahead on the battlefield; on the capabilities and training that the US and our allies will continue to provide to Ukraine; on the sanctions and export controls that we have imposed and will continue to tighten and reinforce that have placed significant costs on Russia's economy and defence industrial base; and on the economic and energy sector assistance as well as the humanitarian assistance we're providing to make life better for the people of Ukraine".
US lawmakers on Tuesday had announced a bipartisan deal to provide nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine in its battle against Russia. With this, the total US aid to Ukraine in this effort goes up to $100 billion.
There is an urgency to the funding as Republicans, who take charge of the House of Representatives in January, are likely to be less generous. Many Republicans have been opposing increasing aid to Ukraine and they will now have the opportunity to cut it.
Zelensky has not travelled abroad since February but has reached out through video appearances around the world, including the US Congress, parliaments of many Western countries and the UN, both the General Assembly and the Security Council.
He has been an extremely effective advocate for his country's war efforts, rallying and pushing countries to do more.