Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, is scheduled to address Congress virtually Wednesday, almost exactly five months after Russia launched its brutal invasion against her country.
The first lady’s speech will follow repeated calls by her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and top officials in Kyiv for the US to provide additional aid in the war against Moscow.
Volodymyr Zelensky initially urged the US to deliver long-range missile systems to his country March 16 in his own address to Congress. Ukraine’s president also called for a no-fly zone over his country — a plea the West has repeatedly rejected over fears of escalating the conflict into a wider war.
“Russian troops have already fired nearly 1,000 missiles at Ukraine, countless bombs,” the Ukrainian president told lawmakers. “They use drones to kill us with precision. This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years … to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people, is this too much to ask?”
“Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities, it went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values,” Zelensky later said, accusing the Kremlin of attacking Ukraine’s “right to live freely.”
Earlier this month, Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov called on the US to send more long-range rocket systems.
“We are waiting for more armor, more weaponry from our partners,” Reznikov told the Wall Street Journal. “The war is grim … We need more. We need it quickly.”
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems — known as HIMARS — have allowed Ukrainian troops to precisely target Russian forces from up to 50 miles away.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, more than 5,000 civilians — including several hundred children — have been killed. As many as 1.6 million Ukrainians have been forcibly deported from their homes to Russian territory, according to State Department estimates.
While Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks were hailed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, his wife’s comments this week may not be welcomed by all.
Earlier this month, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) — the only member of Congress born in Ukraine — accused both Presidents Biden and Zelensky of “playing politics” in their strategy to defeat Russia.
“As someone who learns everything from the ground, I spent some time around Europe including a number of visits to Ukraine,” Spartz said. “Therefore, my understanding of the situation in Ukraine is not from books and theories or surveillance reports and analytics, but from seeing and hearing what’s actually happening with my own eyes. I will not go into many problems at this time and there are a [sic] plenty of them, but will just list three urgent action items needed to get the situation under control.”
“President Biden has to stop playing politics, have a clear strategy and align security assistance with our strategy,” she warned, adding that “President Zelensky has to stop playing politics and theater, and start governing better to support his military and local governments.”
Spartz went on to say that “Congress has to establish proper oversight of critical infrastructure and delivery of weapons and aid.”
After an initial Russian assault targeting Kyiv was repelled, Moscow’s forces have focused their efforts on controlling the east of Ukraine — where a pair of pro-Russia separatist republics have battled government forces since 2014.