Washington — Ukrainian Presidentboth Houses of Congress virtually on Wednesday morning as his country continues to try to fight off the .
“It’s one of the highest honors of any Congress to welcome remarks by foreign heads of state, but it is nearly unheard of, unheard of in modern times that we hear from a leader fighting for his life, fighting for his country’s survival, and fighting to preserve the idea of democracy, something Americans cherish,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.
The virtual address will be received in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, and only members will be allowed to attend, according to a letter from Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The speech will start at 9 a.m. ET. CBS News will broadcast Zelenskyy’s remarks in a Special Report anchored by Gayle King and Tony Dokoupil.
In their letter to colleagues, Pelosi and Schumer said Congress remained committed “to supporting Ukraine as they face Putin’s cruel and diabolical aggression, and to passing legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as deliver humanitarian, security and economic assistance to Ukraine.”
It’s not clear exactly what the Ukrainian president will say in his address. A Ukrainian official said Zelenskyy’s speechwriters write a draft and then he often decides himself what he plans to say. But he will most likely call for more military aid.
Ukraine’s primary concern going into the next phase of the war is its ability to compete with the Russian Air Force. The top request has been fighter jets, but with the transfer of Polish owned MiG fighters now off the table, the Ukrainians also want surface-to-air weaponry that can hit Russia’s high-flying planes. This would go beyond the shoulder-mounted MANPADS and Stinger missiles that the Ukrainians have been receiving from the U.S. and western allies. More drones are also likely to be requested.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, a Democrat of New York, emphasized that Ukrainians must be provided with equipment they’re already trained to operate. The long-range Russian-made S-300 missile, in addition to other items, is under consideration, but it would still require locating the available weaponry in countries willing to transfer it to Ukraine.
It remains unlikely that pressure on the Biden administration will change the president’s opposition to the transfer of MiG planes.
But Mr. Biden on Wednesday is expected to announce an additional $800M in security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total announced in the last week alone to $1 billion, a White House official confirmed Tuesday night. Altogether, Mr. Biden has authorized $2 billion in security for Ukraine since taking office. The U.S. remains by far the largest single donor of security assistance to Ukraine.
The White House, meanwhile,will travel to Brussels next week to participate in an extraordinary NATO summit at its headquarters. Mr. Biden and the alliance’s 30 member countries will “discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commit to our NATO allies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Mr. Biden will also join a European Council summit, set for March 24 and March 25, “to discuss our shared concerns about Ukraine, including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence and address other challenges related to the conflict,” Psaki continued.
Margaret Brennan and Kristin Brown contributed to this report.