President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has returned to Kyiv after receiving a hero’s welcome in Washington and briefly visiting Poland, concluding a sprint of diplomacy aimed at thanking his country’s most robust allies and cementing their support.
“I am in my office,” he said in a video posted to his channel on the Telegram social media app early Friday. “We are working toward victory.”
In a brief evening address on Thursday while en route home, he expressed satisfaction with his landmark visit to Washington, insisting that it had heeded “good results” that “will really help” with Ukraine’s ongoing war effort.
“I thank President Biden for his help, his international leadership and his determination to win,” he said.
Before returning to Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky stopped off in Poland, where he met for two hours with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, near the airport in the southeastern city of Rzeszow, a major transit point for Western weapons flowing into neighboring Ukraine and for refugees fleeing Ukraine into Poland. It was the Ukrainian leader’s second meeting with a foreign president in two days.
The exact location of the meeting, held one day after Mr. Zelensky met Mr. Biden at the White House, was kept secret for security reasons. Video of his arrival at the Rzeszow airport showed Mr. Zelensky bounding down the steps of his plane dressed in green cargo pants, heavy boots and a military-style winter jacket.
Mr. Duda, in a message posted on Twitter, said that the two leaders had discussed “strategic plans for actions and cooperation in the upcoming 2023,” reaffirming Poland’s strong support for Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russia’s military.
Today’s meeting with the President of Ukraine @ZelenskyyUa was not only a great opportunity to send Christmas and New Year wishes to him, his Family and Ukraine, but also gave me an opportunity to discuss strategic plans for actions and cooperation in the upcoming 2023. 🇵🇱🤝🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/CfKtkChmU1
— Andrzej Duda (@AndrzejDuda) December 22, 2022
Mr. Zelensky’s trip to Washington buoyed morale back home in Ukraine, where millions have been plunged into darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power as winter sets in.
After weeks of a stalemate along much of the front, some Ukrainians said they had been cheered to see many members of Congress chant the patriotic refrain “Glory to heroes!” during Mr. Zelensky’s appearance. The high-profile visit was greeted in Ukraine mostly with pride and hope that the president’s impassioned in-person appeals would keep American weapons and financial support flowing.
Russian commentators treated Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Washington with derision. “A guy in a rumpled green sweater, who is called president of an independent sovereign state, flew in an American plane to an American air base,” said Rodion Miroshnik, a pro-Kremlin analyst.
Dmitri S. Peskov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman, said — as the Kremlin has argued before — that the trip showcased the United States’ commitment to fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian.”
There were also revealing hints during the trip of Mr. Zelensky’s worries about the year ahead.
For all the repeated talk of “victory,” and the comparisons of the current moment to the turning of World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Zelensky and his top military officials doubt that the Russian forces that invaded in February can be vanquished anytime soon. And the Ukrainian president knows his country’s remarkable resilience in the first year of the war could be threatened in the second, and the resolve of its saviors could begin to waver.
A Russian buildup of forces has many officials wondering whether Mr. Putin is plotting a new attack. For the first time, there are hairline fractures — but not cracks — among some of Ukraine’s allies and partners, including a minority of Republicans who question whether America should be spending tens of billions for a nation that is not a treaty ally.
And although Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Washington ended with promises of billions more in U.S. support, it did not fulfill some of the more critical requests on his weapons wish list: American battle tanks, fighter jets and long-range precision missiles.