WASHINGTON — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Washington Wednesday on his first trip outside his country since Russia invaded 300 days ago.
Zelensky, 44, posted a photo on his Instagram page showing himself disembarking a US jet at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, the same airport used by Air Force One, ahead of an anticipated 2 p.m. arrival at the White House.
The Ukrainian leader, whose plane landed around noon, will meet with President Biden before co-hosting a White House press conference around 4:30 p.m., then giving a speech to a joint meeting of Congress around 7:30 p.m.
As Zelensky touched down, the Biden administration announced the delivery of a powerful Patriot missile defense battery to Ukraine’s military as part of a new $1.85 billion aid package. Plans for Congress to approve more than $40 billion in additional aid to Kyiv will also be discussed by the two leaders.
The new aid package will also include 500 precision-guided artillery rounds, 37 mine-resistant vehicles, and 2,700 grenade launchers, according to the State Department.
Zelensky is a former comedian who gained international fame leading his country’s resistance to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, beating back an initial Russian attempt to seize the capital before making gains in the country’s east.
The Ukrainian leader reportedly refused a US offer to evacuate Kyiv in the opening days of the war, telling US officials, “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Although Washington has been his top wartime benefactor, Zelensky has had a rocky relationship with Biden.
Before Russia’s invasion, Biden outraged Ukrainian authorities by saying at a Jan. 19 press conference that NATO would treat a “minor incursion” by Russia differently from a full-scale invasion. One Ukrainian official told CNN that it gave a “green light” for Putin to invade, which he did about a month later.
At the time, Zelensky reprimanded Biden in a tweet, writing, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power.”
Biden reportedly further upset Ukrainian officials by warning Zelensky that there was a looming Russian “sack” of Kyiv. The White House denied the accuracy of those reports attributed to Ukrainian officials.
In June, Biden reportedly lost his temper during a phone call with Zelensky when the Ukrainian leader listed additional materiel his country needed, though the relationship between the two men appears to have improved.
News of Zelensky’s trip to Washington leaked Tuesday afternoon, but the Ukrainian leader himself hinted at a visit when his own country’s media reported that he had received a signed Ukrainian flag from troops fighting against Russia’s invasion to present US leaders.
Zelensky previously visited the White House in September 2021. That trip was overshadowed by the prior month’s chaotic US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.