The two men spoke during President Zelensky’s visit to Washington where he worked to shore up U.S. support for Ukraine, delivering an upbeat message on the war’s progress while facing new questions about the flow of American dollars that for 19 months has helped keep his troops in the fight against Russian forces.
The red carpet was rolled out for the Ukrainian leader when he arrived at the White House with his wife to be greeted by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
“The American people are determined to see to it that we do all we can to ensure the world stands with you,” Biden assured Zelensky, projecting White House support of Ukraine to other nations as well.
At the Capitol, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who faces opposition among Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump on support for Ukraine, notably chose not to join House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in greeting the Ukrainian president when he arrived.
McCarthy also confirmed he declined Zelensky’s request for a joint session of Congress, as happened during the Ukrainian president’s dramatic visit to Washington last winter, saying there wasn’t time on short notice.
But McCarthy praised the answers that Ukrainians delivered to lawmakers Thursday.
“It was direct, I thought it was honest, they were answering the questions,” McCarthy said.
“I heard a lot of positive things.”
Republican House lawmakers described questioning Zelensky on the way forward for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, as the fight to roll back invading Russian forces moves closer to the two-year mark without major breakthroughs in Russia’s heavily mined lines.
Zelensky “conceded that it’s tough, very tough to overcome entrenched defenses,” Independent Sen. Angus King said.
“They believe they will make slow but steady progress, but it’s not going to be quick.”
Biden has called on world leaders to stand strong with Ukraine, even as he faces domestic political divisions at home.
A hard-right flank of Republicans, led by Trump, Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race for the White House, is increasingly opposed to sending more money overseas.
Zelensky faces challenges in Europe as well as cracks emerge in what had been a largely united Western alliance behind Ukraine.
Late Wednesday, Poland’s prime minister said his country is no longer sending arms to Ukraine, a comment that appeared aimed at pressuring Kyiv and put Poland’s status as a major source of military equipment in doubt as a trade dispute between the neighboring states escalates.