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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Washington as Congress weighs approving more aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is visiting Washington, D.C., for the second time since Russia launched an assault on his country more than 18 months ago. The visit comes as President Biden will announce a new package of military assistance that includes “significant” air defense capabilities to help Ukraine “harden” its defenses, said national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

The Ukrainian president met behind closed doors with members of the House and Senate before heading to the Pentagon and then to the White House for a sit down with President Biden. But Zelenskyy is encountering a slightly different environment on Capitol Hill than he did in December, when Democrats still controlled the House. And Congress is weighing more aid to Ukraine amid that environment.

A number of Republicans in the GOP-controlled lower chamber are skeptical, if not vocally critical, of the United States’ continued financial assistance of Ukraine, even as Mr. Biden and Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have emphasized that assistance is critical. After meeting with Zelenskyy, GOP Sen. Josh Hawley said he remains firmly against additional funding for Ukraine.

CBS News asked Sen. Thom Tillis if Zelenskyy made any appeals to senators like Hawley who are skeptical of Ukraine aid.

“I don’t think so,” Tillis responded. “And quite honestly, I don’t believe you can convince Josh Hawley to change his opinion. So why waste the time? Go focus on the vast majority of the members out there to support it.”

Sen. Chris Coons said Zelenskyy was clear that if the U.S. steps away from supporting Ukraine, the Russians will win. In the White House briefing room, Sullivan downplayed fraying support from some Republicans, saying he thinks bipartisan support for Ukraine will continue to remain strong.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Zelenskyy requested a joint session of Congress, but McCarthy claimed there wasn’t time for that this week — a signal of where Ukraine stands with the GOP-led House.

“I think the best part is sit down walk through the question of what is the plan for victory, what is the plan in the field, the accountability issues that a lot of members have questions, just walk through that,” McCarthy said before meeting with Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy’s Washington visit follows his first in-person appearance at the United Nations since Russia invaded in February 2022. Both Zelenskyy and Mr. Biden emphasized at the U.N. General Assembly that Ukraine’s security is international security.

“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” Mr, Biden asked during his UNGA speech.

In a recent interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” Zelenskyy warned world order is at stake.

“If Ukraine falls, what will happen in ten years? Just think about it. If [the Russians] reach Poland, what’s next? A Third World War?” Zelenskyy told Scott Pelley in a60 Minutes interviewthat aired Sunday. “We’re defending the values of the whole world. And these are Ukrainian people who are paying the highest price. We are truly fighting for our freedom, we are dying. We are not fiction, we are not a book. We are fighting for real with a nuclear state that threatens to destroy the world.”

How to watch Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington

What: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes meetings with top leaders in WashingtonDate: Sept. 21, 2023Time: All dayLocation:Capitol Hill and the White HouseOnline stream: Live on CBS News in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device.

— Jack Turman contributed to this report

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