Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Washington on Wednesday, said people familiar with the matter.
The plans are not final, will depend on security considerations and are subject to change, the people said. He is expected to visit the White House and the US Congress, the people said.
His visit would coincide with a vote on an annual $1.7tn spending bill that includes nearly $45bn in assistance for Ukraine. The Biden administration is also finalising plans to send the Patriot missile defence system to the country — a demand the Zelenskyy administration has made as Russia has stepped up attacks on energy infrastructure.
The visit would be the first time Zelenskyy has left Ukraine since Russia invaded 300 days ago. The president has been looking for an opportunity to come to Washington since the summer, according to officials close to him, who said security was the biggest issue standing in the way.
Kyiv officials also said he would want to tie any visit to a major request for lethal aid from the Biden administration, such as the Patriot system. A source close to the president’s office said Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, will not be joining Zelenskyy on the visit.
The US National Security Council and Zelenskyy’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The White House did not reply to a request for comment on whether Zelenskyy would meet Biden.
Zelenskyy’s team has been in discussions to visit Capitol Hill, the people familiar with the matter said. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, sent a message to all members on Tuesday to encourage in-person attendance at Wednesday’s session, where a vote on the omnibus bill is set to take place. She added that the session would include “a very special focus on democracy”.
During a visit to Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, Ukrainian troops gave Zelenskyy a national flag they had signed to pass on to the US Congress for their support.
Plans for a possible visit also come as the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said it will become more difficult to pass additional assistance to Ukraine next year when his party takes control of the House.
Zelenskyy’s visit could put additional pressure on House Republicans who intend to vote against the omnibus spending bill. It is expected to pass regardless with support from House Democrats as well as bipartisan backing in the Senate.