President Biden greeted Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska with a bouquet of sunflowers Tuesday to show support for her country’s fight against the nearly five-month-old Russian invasion.
The welcome from the president wasn’t advertised to the press ahead of time. The White House told reporters that only first lady Jill Biden would greet Zelenska.
Ukraine’s first lady, 44, is visiting Washington to liaise with US leaders about the multibillion-dollar effort to arm Kyiv’s military and financially prop up its government as it fights off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
Zelenska will address members of Congress on Wednesday on behalf of her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Congress overwhelmingly approved $40 billion in war funding for Ukraine in May after Ukrainian troops beat back a Russian attempt to seize the capital.
Biden has vowed to support Zelensky’s government as long as necessary, despite growing resistance from fiscal conservatives.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 after about eight years of lower-intensity fighting between a pair of pro-Russia rebel republics in eastern Ukraine and the Kyiv government. Biden accused Putin of seeking to resurrect the Soviet Union, but the precise goal of the invasion was unclear.