Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy plans to travel to the United States on December 11 after receiving an invitation from President Joe Biden to visit the White House on December 12 on the heels of his visit to Argentina to meet with Latin American leaders.
Biden invited Zelenskiy to the White House "to underscore the United States' unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia's brutal invasion,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on December 10.
"As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine's urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States' continued support at this critical moment," she added.
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Zelenskiy's office said on Telegram that the Ukrainian leader would arrive in Washington on December 11 for a "series of meetings and discussions" along with the White House visit the following day.
The talks will focus on defense cooperation between Washington and Kyiv, "particularly through joint projects on the production of weapons and air-defense systems, as well as the coordination of efforts between our countries in the coming year," Zelenskiy's office said.
Zelenskiy has been invited to address U.S. senators at the Capitol on December 12 at 9 a.m., a Senate aide said.
Zelenskiy on December 5 canceled a video address to U.S. senators as debate heated up on Biden's nearly $106 billion request for funding for the wars in Ukraine and Israel.
Zelenskiy had been expected to make Ukraine's case for continued U.S. military aid as Ukraine braces for a difficult winter on the battlefield and as Russian shelling and strikes continue to kill civilians.
The Biden administration asked Congress in October to pass the aid package, which would cover not only aid for Ukraine and Israel but also border security, but the Republican-controlled House rejected the request.
Zelenskiy canceled the video address shortly after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) told fellow Republicans to vote against the measure when it came to the floor.
The planned Washington visit would follow Zelenskiy's first trip to Latin America, where he on December 10 thanked regional leaders for their support of his country in its battle against the full-scale Russian invasion and the “fight for freedom and democracy.”
"The support and strong united voice of Latin American countries that stand with the people of Ukraine in our fight for freedom and democracy is very important for us," Zelenskiy said on social media after meeting with the leaders of Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay during his trip to Buenos Aires, where he is attending the inauguration of Argentinian President Javier Milei.
In discussions with Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, the Ukrainian leader said his country was grateful to the South American country "for supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Zelenskiy's official Telegram channel said the Ukrainian leader also thanked Paraguayan President Santiago Pena "for his decisive support of Ukraine within international organizations."
"With [Ecuadoran] President Daniel Noboa, they discussed the possibilities of developing bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Ecuador: in the field of security, digitalization, trade in agricultural products," the Telegram statement said.
"It is very important for us to have the support and powerful united voice of the countries of Latin America, which support the Ukrainian people in the war for our freedom and democracy," Zelenskiy was quoted as saying.
The Telegram statement said Zelenskiy congratulated Milei on his election as Argentina's new president.
"This is a new beginning for Argentina, and I express my wish that President Milei and all the Argentinian people will surprise the world with their success. I am also sure that bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Argentina will continue to expand," Zelenskiy was quoted as saying.
Prior to arriving in Argentina, Zelenskiy made a stopover visit to Cape Verde, a small island state off the west coast of Africa, in his latest bid to shore up support for Ukraine in the Global South for Kyiv in its 21-month-old war against Russia.
Zelenskiy met on December 9 with Cape Verde Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva in what he later called in a social-media post the "first meeting of leaders in the history of our bilateral relations."
Zelenskiy thanked Cape Verde for condemning Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and its backing of Ukrainian initiatives.
Zelenskiy is hoping to convene a "global peace summit" and has promoted a peace plan rooted in the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and recognition of its post-Soviet borders of 1991.
Analysts say Kyiv has been trying to build ties with African, Asian, and Latin American governments, but has found its support for Israel at odds with the positions of some of those countries.
In Cape Verde, Zelenskiy informed the African leader of efforts to develop new grain routes as well as plans to create grain centers in Africa, a statement from Zelenskiy's office said.
In July, Russia refused to extend a UN-backed deal that had allowed Ukraine to export grain and other food items from three designated Black Sea ports. Much of those agricultural exports were destined for parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
After pulling out of the agreement brokered by the UN and Turkey, Russia has attacked Ukraine's Black Sea ports and grain infrastructure, destroying almost 300,000 metric tons of grain, according to a recent estimate by the British government.
An alternative, temporary Black Sea corridor has allowed Ukraine to ship more than 7 million tons of cargo through Black Sea ports despite Russia's blockade, Ukrainian officials said on December 4.
Meanwhile, while in Argentina for Milei’s inauguration, Zelenskiy met briefly with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a bid to resolve differences over Ukraine's bid for European Union membership.
Orban's office confirmed he had met with Zelenskiy and that EU membership issues were discussed, but it did not provide details.
Earlier this week it was reported that Orban had written European Council President Charles Michel to demand that Ukraine's membership be taken off the agenda at an EU summit next week.
That summit in Brussels will decide on whether to start talks with Ukraine and neighboring Moldova -- as recommended by the EU Executive Commission -- on their bids to join the 27-member bloc. EU leaders will also decide on the release of 50 billion euros ($55 billion) in aid for Ukraine.
Orban is considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest allies in Europe, and his nationalist government has argued against EU sanctions on Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
On the battlefield on December 10, Ukraine reported that Russian shelling in the Kherson region hit residential buildings and wounded two civilians, a 37-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman.
Moscow has denied targeting civilian areas despite widespread evidence of such attacks.
Russian forces in recent weeks have been attempting to regain territory they lost to a Ukrainian blitz offensive last year, with heavy losses reported. Ukrainian losses have also been heavy, but official figures are impossible to obtain.
With reporting by dpa and Reuters