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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will travel to Washington for high-level meetings to drum up support for additional aid after he attends the UN General Assembly next week, according to people familiar with the matter.
Zelenskyy will meet US president Joe Biden at the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He is also expected to visit the Pentagon to meet defence secretary Lloyd Austin.
His trip will come as the White House urges Congress to approve $24bn in additional funds for Kyiv to support its military efforts through the beginning of next year, and amid rising tensions within the Republican party over the level of support Washington should provide to Ukraine following Moscow’s full-scale invasion last year.
The Ukrainian military made more progress in its counteroffensive campaign to wrest back territory from Russia on Friday, recapturing the village of Andriivka near Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region and trouncing enemy forces, according to the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
Secretary of state Antony Blinken — the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine since its summer counteroffensive got under way — announced the latest package of security and humanitarian assistance worth $1bn during his surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv last week.
The Biden administration is also close to deciding whether to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles known as ATACMS, which Kyiv has long sought to help it disrupt Russian military logistics beyond the front line. A senior Biden administration official told the Financial Times last week that “a decision could be coming soon”.
Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Zelenskyy, said he was confident the US would agree to send ATACMS.
Zelenskyy’s office, which has a policy of not announcing the president’s foreign travel plans in advance for security reasons, did not respond to a request for comment on the upcoming US visit. The White House declined to comment.
He last visited Washington in December, when he delivered an impassioned plea to a joint session of Congress and to the American public to ramp up support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.
The address came just weeks before Republicans, some of whom within the party’s right wing have been critical of the Biden administration’s backing for Kyiv, took control of the House of Representatives.
US support was crucial to help Ukraine “not just to stand in such a fight, but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield”, he said. “Your money is not charity, it’s an investment in global security and democracy.”
Zelenskyy is not expected to speak to a joint meeting of lawmakers this time but to hold talks with smaller groups inside the Capitol.
His trip will follow a visit to Vladivostok in Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who pledged his country’s “full and unconditional support” to Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Russian army as it continued its war against Ukraine.
The Russians are in need of ammunition, particularly artillery shells, as they try to defend captured territory in south-eastern Ukraine, which Putin claimed last September to have annexed to Russia.
Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, are pressing ahead with their counteroffensive, launched three months ago. While it has not produced the significant gains Kyiv and some of the country’s western backers hoped for, Ukraine continues to make progress.
The capture of Andriivka by Ukrainian forces on Friday marked one of the most significant battlefield gains in the east since the nearby city of Bakhmut fell under Moscow’s control in May.
Russian forces suffered significant losses of personnel and equipment while Ukrainian troops managed to entrench themselves and secure their advance around the village, Ukraine’s general staff said.
“As a result of a lightning operation, the Russian garrison of Andriivka was surrounded, cut off from the main forces and destroyed,” Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade wrote on Telegram.