NATIONAL NEWS

With Ukraine aid in peril, Zelenskyy pleads his cause on Capitol Hill and at the White House

Dec 12, 2023, 2:28 PM | Updated: 2:29 pm

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands while meeting i...

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands while meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on December 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. Zelensky is in Washington meeting with Biden and Congressional leaders to make an in-person case for continued military aid as Ukraine runs out of money for their war against Russia. The meetings come days after the U.S. Senate failed to advance Biden's proposed national security package that included emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel. (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

(Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — His country’s future at stake, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used inspirational words, optimistic resolve and a nod to Christmas in appealing Tuesday to leaders in Congress for U.S. aid for his fighters in the war with Russia.

But after hours of talks on Capitol Hill, additional American support appeared in grave doubt as Zelenskyy arrived at the White House to huddle with President Joe Biden. The U.S. has already provided Ukraine $111 billion since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his grinding invasion more than 21 months ago, but Republicans are insisting on linking any more money to strict U.S.-Mexico border security changes that Democrats decry.

The White House is warning that if new money isn’t provided by year’s end it will have swift consequences for Ukraine’s capacity to hold its territory, let alone take back land captured by Russia.

Meeting with Zelenskyy in the Oval Office, Biden said, “Mr. President, I call on Congress to do the right thing, to stand with Ukraine, and to stand up for freedom.” He added, “Congress needs to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

Zelenskyy made his own case during his brief White House appearance with Biden and his private meetings with congressional leaders — that Ukrainian forces have fought fiercely to push back the Russian invasion with the help of American and other Western allies and it’s no time for Ukraine’s friends to step back.

“The fight we’re in is a fight for freedom,” Zelenskyy repeatedly said in the meetings on Capitol Hill, according to lawmakers.

Flanked by Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Zelenskyy entered a private meeting with senators with a public bipartisan show of support and to some applause. But more than an hour later few senators’ minds appeared changed.

Zelenskyy also visited the House leaders, including privately with new Speaker Mike Johnson, whose hard-right Republicans have been the most resistance to any deal. Johnson insisted afterward: “We do want to do the right thing here.”

Zelenskyy sought to impress on the senators that Ukraine could win the war against Russia, telling them he was drafting men in their 30s and 40s in a show of strength for the battle. In his trademark olive drab, he stood before a portrait of George Washington, history hanging behind him.

To the House Democrats, he showcased his country’s embrace of the West by pointing to the Christmas season, telling them it was the first year Ukraine would celebrate on Dec. 25 rather than the day Russians mark the holiday.

McConnell said Zelenskyy was “inspirational and determined” in the Senate meeting.

But Republican senators exited the meeting unmoved from their position. Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma said the emergency funding wouldn’t gain GOP support unless it includes “real, meaningful border reform.”

Biden has been calling for a $110 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs.

He has expressed a willingness to engage with the Republicans as migrant crossings have hit record highs along the U.S.-Mexico border, but Democrats in his own party oppose proposals for expedited deportations and strict asylum standards as a return to Trump-era hostility towards migrants. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas headed to Capitol Hill to meet with negotiators as they try to reach a border deal,

One chief Republican negotiator, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, said there was nothing Zelenskyy could say during his visit with the senators to sway the outcome.

“Hey, pay attention to us, but not your own country? No,” Lankford told reporters.

Ahead of Zelenskyy’s high-stakes meetings, the White House late Monday pointed to newly declassified intelligence that shows Ukraine has inflicted heavy losses on Russia in recent fighting along the Avdiivka-Novopavlivka axis — including 13,000 casualties and over 220 combat vehicle losses. The Ukrainian holdout in the country’s partly-occupied east has been the center of some of the fiercest fighting in recent weeks.

U.S. intelligence officials have determined that the Russians think if they can achieve a military deadlock through the winter it will drain Western support for Ukraine and ultimately give Russia the advantage, despite the fact that Russians have sustained heavy losses and have been slowed by persistent shortages of trained personnel, munitions and equipment.

Russia has lost 87% of the military personnel it had before the Ukraine war, including contracted and other ground forces, naval infantry and airborne troops, according to a person familiar with a recently declassified intelligence analysis and granted anonymity to discuss it.

Additionally, of the 3,500 Russian tanks before the invasion, some 2,200 have been lost on the battlefield, the person said.

The result is forcing Russia to rely on Soviet-era weaponry and has set back efforts to modernize its ground forces, the person said the analysis shows.

It’s Zelenskyy’s third visit to Washington since the war broke out in February 2022, including a quick trip just a few months ago as aid was being considered. But his surprise arrival days before Christmas last December drew thunderous applause in Congress, his daring first wartime trip out of Ukraine.

At the time, lawmakers sported the blue-and-yellow colors of Ukraine, and Zelenskyy delivered a speech that drew on the parallels to World War II as he thanked Americans for their support.

But 2023 brought a new power center of hard-right Republicans, many aligned with Donald Trump, the former president who is now the GOP front-runner in the 2024 race for the White House.

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Zelenskyy might be able to take on the stalemate by showing the stakes of potential Russian expansion toward NATO, and making his case on “moral clarity and why is Ukraine important.”

Zelenskyy kicked off the quick visit to Washington on Monday, warning in a speech at a defense university that Russia may be fighting in Ukraine but its “real target is freedom” in America and around the world. During his meeting with Biden, he also sought to assure Congress—and the American public—that Ukraine was worth the substantial cost to the United States.

“Ukraine can win,” said Zelenskyy. “People need to be confident that freedom is secure.”

Of the new $110 billion national security package, $61.4 billion would go toward Ukraine — with about half to the U.S. Defense Department to replenish weaponry it is supplying, and the other half for humanitarian assistance and to help the Ukrainian government function with emergency responders, public works and other operations.

The package includes another nearly $14 billion for Israel as it fights Hamas and $14 billion for U.S. border security. Additional funds would go for national security needs in the Asia-Pacific region.

As Biden and Zelenskyy met, the U.S. was preparing to announce another, relatively modest, million-dollar military aid package, according to U.S. officials.

The roughly $200 million in weapons and equipment will be taken from Pentagon stocks and include additional ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), high-speed anti-radiation missiles, anti-armor systems, artillery rounds, missiles, demolition munitions, 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition, generators and other equipment and spare parts, one official said.

Including that latest package, the U.S. now has about $4.4 billion remaining in weapons it can provide from department stockpiles.

Border security talks have focused on making it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum and releasing fewer of them temporarily into the U.S. while they await proceedings to determine if they can remain permanently.

As border talks drag, Biden’s budget director said last week that the U.S. will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year.


Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor, Tara Copp, Seung Min Kim, Will Weissert and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

The Supreme Court may hand down at least one opinion on Monday, according to a new post on the cour...

John Fritze, CNN

Supreme Court may announce at least one opinion Monday as US waits for word on Trump ballot case

The Supreme Court may hand down at least one opinion on Monday, according to a new post on the court’s website. The announcement is certain to drive speculation that the justices are prepared to decide whether former President Donald Trump is eligible to appear on Colorado’s presidential ballot.

1 hour ago

(From left) Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Mandatory Credit:	Niko Tavernise/Wa...

Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer

‘Dune: Part Two’ brings spice power to the box office with $81.5 million debut

Movie theaters were looking for a savior and “Dune: Part Two” is delivering on the promise.

5 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

Eric Bradner and Daniel Strauss, CNN

Trump wins all delegates at stake in Michigan GOP convention amid leadership battle

Former President Donald Trump won all 39 delegates at stake at a Michigan Republican convention Saturday, as officials there sought to move past a leadership battle that has split the state party into rival factions.

20 hours ago

Workers clear snow in a residential neighborhood, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Truckee, Calif. (AP P...

Brooke Hess and Ken Ritter, The Associated Press

A massive blizzard howls in the Sierra Nevada. High winds and heavy snow close roads and ski resorts

A powerful blizzard that a meteorologist termed “as bad as it gets” howled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, closing a long stretch of Interstate 80 in Northern California, forcing ski resorts to shut down, and leaving thousands of homes without power.

21 hours ago

People inspect damage and recover items from their homes following Israeli air strikes on February ...

Waafa Shurafa and Samy Magdy

U.S. says Israel has agreed to the framework for a Gaza cease-fire. Hamas now must decide

A senior U.S. official says Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed Gaza cease-fire and hostage release deal, and it is now up to Hamas to agree to it.

1 day ago

yellow tape crossing blue and red lights...

Associated Press

Body parts of 2 people found in Long Island park and police are trying to identify them

Police on New York's Long Island were trying to identify human remains found in a popular suburban park that appear to be from a man and a woman.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

With Ukraine aid in peril, Zelenskyy pleads his cause on Capitol Hill and at the White House