Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Congress on Wednesday night to approve more aid for Ukraine, telling lawmakers that "this battle cannot be frozen and postponed," and reminding them that temperatures are falling with the arrival of winter.
"Ukraine is alive and kicking," Zelenskyy said in English to applause. "Russian tyranny has lost control over us," he added.
Zelenskyy, who delivered his entire address in English, thanked Americans for support and vowed Ukraine "will win because we are united — Ukraine, America and the entire free world."
"Standing here today, I recall the words of the president Franklin Delano Roosevelt …'The American people in their righteous might will win through absolute victory,'" Zelenskyy said. "The Ukrainian people will win too. Absolutely."
He noted that many in Ukraine will celebrate Christmas by candle — not because it's romantic but because Russians have destroyed the power, he said. Millions will have neither heating, nor running water, he said. But they would celebrate nonetheless, he said, adding that millions of Ukrainians want the same thing — victory.
At the end of the speech, he presented a Ukrainian flag signed by Ukrainians to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Zelenskyy's trip to Washington, his first out of the country since the Russian invasion in February, comes as Congress is debating a massive $1.7 trillion government spending bill, which includes another $45 billion in aid for Ukraine.
Ahead of the speech, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged the passage of the bill – which must pass both Houses of Congress and be signed by President Joe Biden by Friday – and said Zelenskyy "made clear that without this aid package, the Ukrainians will be in trouble and could even lose the war."
"So that makes the urgency of us getting this legislation one all the more important and getting it done quickly without flaw," Schumer said.
A number of Republicans who oppose more aid attended Zelenskyy's address — Reps. Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz stood but did not applaud for the Ukrainian leader.
In front of Congress, Zelenskyy called for "Ukrainian courage and American resolve" that will "guarantee the future of our common freedom."
Ahead of the speech, Zelenskyy met with President Joe Biden at the White House. They held a joint press conference, where Mr. Biden said he would continue to support Ukraine "as long as it takes," and denounced Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure as the brutal winter cold sets in.
"We should be clear about what Russia is doing — it is purposefully attacking Ukraine's critical infrastructure, destroying the systems that provide heat and light to the Ukrainian people during the coldest, darkest part of the year. Russia is using winter as a weapon," Mr. Biden said, standing next to Zelenskyy in the White House East Room. "It's important for the American people and for the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine's fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023."
Zelenskyy addressed Congress virtually in March.