Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit the United States on Wednesday, during which he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and then address a joint session of Congress, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Zelensky's trip was so carefully arranged that even though reported by multiple U.S. media outlets earlier on Tuesday, it was said to still have the potential of failing to materialize at the last minute due to heightened security concerns -- until the senior administration official formally made the announcement at a briefing with reporters.
During what will be his first overseas trip since the conflict between Ukraine and Russia broke out in late February, the Ukrainian leader will have "an extended sit-down" with Biden at the White House, a meeting with key members of the U.S. national security team and Cabinet-level officials, and then the opportunity to meet with reporters at a press conference, according to the official.
Coinciding with the occasion of Zelensky's visit, Biden is expected to approve a new tranche of security assistance for Ukraine worth nearly 2 billion U.S. dollars on Wednesday, the official said.
Included in that package is a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery, an advanced U.S. weapon system that the media have speculated for quite some time the Biden administration is prepared to send to Ukraine.
The official added that the United States will train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use the Patriot battery "in a third country," which "will take some time."
Russia has warned that the U.S. delivery of the Patriot to Ukraine will come with "consequences."
Zelensky will also head to Capitol Hill to deliver a speech at a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening, the official said.
Hours prior to the briefing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter encouraged members of her chamber to be present for a "very special" session drawing an end to the 117th Congress, stopping short of providing specifics. It now appears that she was referring to the event hosting Zelensky as a guest speaker.
On Tuesday morning, the House Appropriations Committee released the "Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023" that will provide Ukraine with 45 billion dollars in emergency assistance.
The administration official expected the aid money to pass with bipartisan support. It is contained in a 1.7-trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2023.
That 45-billion-dollar sum represents the biggest infusion of Washington's aid to Kiev, surpassing even the White House's request made to Congress last month asking for a 37-billion-dollar appropriation aimed at helping Ukraine in the ongoing conflict, which entered its 300th day Wednesday.