Zelensky to US Congress: Against all odds, Ukraine is alive and kicking

The Ukrainian president also addressed the US's continued assistance to Kyiv, and said it was an investment in global security.

 Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)

WASHINGTON – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, thanking lawmakers for their continued support and calling on them to provide his country the means to get to the “turning point” of the war.

He also slammed Iran for providing Russia with deadly drones used to attack Ukrainian citizens and reassured Congress that Ukraine “will never surrender.”

Zelensky opened his remarks by saying it was a great honor for him to address the American public at the Congress.

“Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking,” he said to the applause of US lawmakers.

“The Russian tyranny has lost control over us, and it’ll never influence our minds again,” he added. “The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin in their minds.”

“Yes, the battle continues, and we have to defeat the Kremlin on the battlefield,” Zelensky said. “This battle is not only for territory; the battle is not only for life, freedom and security of Ukrainians or any other nation, which Russia attempts to conquer. This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren.”

 Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy receives a U.S. flag from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN) Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy receives a U.S. flag from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)

Ukraine and the US are “allies in this battle,” he said, adding that “next year will be a turning point” in the war. “I know it – the point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom, the freedom of people who stand for their values.”

“They have much more missiles and planes than we ever had,” Zelensky said. “But our defense forces stand, and we all are proud of them.”

The Russian war tactics are “primitive,” he said. They “burn down and destroy everything they see” and “send convicts to the war.”

“They threw everything against us, [but] Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender,” he added.

Zelensky spoke directly to members of both chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Your support is crucial – not just to stand in such a fight, but to get to the turning point; to win on the battlefield,” he said. “We have artillery. Yes, thank you. We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really. If your Patriots [air-defense system] stop the Russian terror against our cities, it’ll let Ukrainian patriots work to the full to defend our freedom.”

Zelensky criticizes Iran's support for Moscow 

Zelensky also sharply criticized Iranian involvement in the war.

The hundreds of deadly drones sent from Iran to Russia have become “a threat to our critical infrastructure,” he said.

“That is how one terrorist has found the other,” he added. “It is just a matter of time when they will strike against other allies if we do not stop them now. We must do it.”

Zelensky addressed the continued assistance to Ukraine, calling it an investment in global security.

“Ukraine never asked American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us,” he said. “I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves. Financial assistance is critically important, and I would like to thank you very much. Your money is not charity; it is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

Zelensky reiterated the importance of bipartisan support for his country.

“Each of you can assist in the implementation to ensure that America’s leadership remains solid, bicameral and bipartisan,” he said.

Ten months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky landed at the US capital for a historic meeting with US President Joe Biden. It was his first trip outside his country since the beginning of the war in February.

Earlier on Wednesday, Zelensky was greeted by Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House before the two leaders headed to their meeting. It was their second face-to-face meeting, as Zelensky visited the White House in September 2021.

In their meeting, Biden reassured Zelensky that the US is committed to Ukraine’s security.

“We are going to continue to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, particularly in air defense,” he said. “And that’s why we’re going to provide Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery and in training your forces to be able to accurately use it.”

“Together, our partners are also going to continue to impose costs on the Kremlin, and we will support Ukraine pursuing a just peace,” he added. “President Zelensky, the United States stands with the great people in Ukraine. We stand with you; you have been a great leader.”

Biden concluded his joint press conference with Zelensky by making a reference to the Hanukkah miracle, saying that “light will always prevail over darkness.”

“Tonight is the fourth night of Hanukkah,” he said, while standing next to Zelensky, who is Jewish.

It is “a time when Jewish people around the world – President Zelensky and many of the families among them – honor the timeless miracle of a small band of warriors fighting for their values and their freedom against a much larger foe, and how they endured and how they overcame; how the flame of faith, with only enough oil for one day, burned brightly for eight days,” he added.

It was “a story of survival and resilience that reminds us that [in] the coldest days of the year, that light will always prevail over darkness, and hope drives away despair, and that the human spirit is unconquerable as long as there are good people willing to do what is right,” Biden said.

“This year has brought so much needless suffering and loss to the Ukrainian people,” he said. “But I want you to know, President Zelensky, [and] I want all the people of Ukraine to know as well: The American people have been with you every step of the way, and we will stay with you. We will stay with you for as long as it takes.”

“What you’re doing, what you have achieved, it matters not just to Ukraine but to the entire world,” Biden said. “Together, I have no doubt we’ll keep the flame of liberty burning bright, and the light will remain and prevail over the darkness.”

Earlier on Wednesday, at the start of their meeting, Zelensky gave Biden a Ukrainian military medal, the Cross for Military Merit. This particular medal was awarded earlier this year to a Ukrainian officer for outstanding feats on the battlefield, he told Biden.

Zelensky said he met the officer in Bakhmut earlier this week, when the officer asked him to give his medal to Biden. Zelensky also delivered a letter from the officer, expressing Ukraine’s appreciation for the US assistance.

Biden later gave Zelensky two command coins: one for the Ukrainian president and one for the officer who delivered his medal to Biden.