Zelensky’s US Visit Lifts Spirits During Cold Winter for Ukraine: Live Updates

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In a joint meeting of Congress, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had won a victory over Russia “in the battle for minds of the world,” and in blunt terms, he pleaded for more military assistance from lawmakers.CreditCredit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky was returning to Ukraine on Thursday after a high-profile visit to Washington that was greeted at home with mostly pride and hope that his impassioned, in-person appeals would keep American weapons and financial support flowing.

Amid the darkness and cold from Russian missile strikes that have knocked out power for millions of people as winter sets in — and after weeks of stalemate along much of the front line — the surprise presidential trip buoyed morale in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians said that they were cheered to see members of Congress chant during Mr. Zelensky’s appearance the patriotic greeting, “Glory to heroes!”

“Friends, everything will be fine, Ukraine will be fine, we will be given everything, we will be helped,” Valeriy Tryhub, a ski instructor, wrote in a post on Facebook.

Reached by telephone later, Mr. Tryhub said that he had stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to watch Mr. Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress, where the Ukrainian president received standing ovations and presented Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a Ukrainian flag that had been signed by soldiers.

“This is, without exaggeration, an historical event,” he said of Mr. Zelensky’s visit, his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion in February.

“We now, more than ever, need world support in the struggle for independence,” Mr. Tryhub added. “The United States is one of the many countries that finally realized that without foreign support, we cannot win. So we need help, especially since we have common values ​​such as democracy and freedom.”

Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

On his way back from Washington, Mr. Zelensky landed on Thursday in Poland, where he said that he met with President Andrzej Duda. He was returning to Ukraine with at least one tangible gain: an additional $1.8 billion in military aid announced Wednesday including a Patriot missile battery, one of the most advanced air defense systems.

But passage in Congress of an omnibus spending bill, which includes an additional nearly $50 billion in funding for Ukraine, was delayed on Wednesday night because of an impasse over immigration policy.

Still, it was a mostly triumphant visit, planned in stealth, for Mr. Zelensky, a former comedic actor who was elected in a landslide in 2019 but whose popularity was slumping before Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February. Mr. Zelensky remained in Kyiv even though the capital seemed about to fall, and most Ukrainians quickly set aside politics to rally around their president.

“My whole life, I never imagined the president of Ukraine would be addressing Congress,” Tetiana Bisyk, a writer, tweeted on Thursday, adding: “I am so proud to be Ukrainian.”

Artur Bilous, a political analyst, wrote on Facebook that while “no Ukrainian president was ever greeted like this” in Washington, Mr. Zelensky’s trip would ultimately be gauged a success if it helps speed up the flow of weaponry.

“In particular, how quickly military aid will be delivered, first of all the Patriot air defense system,” Mr. Bilous wrote.

Overall, the reaction in Ukraine was one of pride and hope — and continued defiance toward Russia.

“Putin, I hope you are watching this real time,” Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, posted on Twitter, addressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “We. Will. Win.”

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv.

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