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.

President Biden hasn’t yet visited Ukraine to show support during the conflict, but Dr. Biden crossed into the Eastern European country on Mother’s Day in May for a surprise meeting with Zelenska.

Congress overwhelmingly approved $40 billion in war funding for Ukraine in May after Ukrainian troops beat back a Russian attempt to seize the capital.

First Lady Jill Biden hugs Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska while President Joe Biden holds a bouquet of sunflowers.
First lady Jill Biden hugs Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska while President Biden holds a bouquet of sunflowers.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska attends a meeting with First Lady Jill Biden in the Blue Room of the White House.
Zelenska is scheduled to speak to Congress on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accepts the Dissident Human Rights Award on behalf of the people of Ukraine for their brave fight against Russia from Dr. Edwin Feulner chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, at the Victims of Communism Museum in Washington, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Zelenska accepts the Dissident Human Rights Award from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, DC, on July 19, 2022.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. first lady Jill Biden welcome Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2022.
First lady Jill Biden previously met Zelenska on Mother’s Day.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2022.
President Biden smiles at Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, greet Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, left, at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2022.
The press was reportedly unaware that President Biden would appear with his wife, Jill.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska attends a meeting with First Lady Jill Biden in the Blue Room of the White House.
Zelenska attends a meeting with first lady Jill Biden in the Blue Room of the White House.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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.



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