Zelenskiy meets Republican doubts in push for US aid to fight Russia

President Joe Biden warned Republicans on Tuesday that they would give Russia a “Christmas gift” if they failed to provide additional military aid to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose meeting with a top U.S. lawmaker concluded without a commitment for more support.

Zelenskiy traveled to Washington to plead for money to back Ukraine in its war with Russia, but he faced a skeptical reception from key Republican lawmakers. Mike Johnson, the speaker of the House of Representatives, would not agree to support Biden’s request to give Ukraine $61.4 billion.

“What the Biden administration seems to be asking for is billions of additional dollars with no appropriate oversight, no clear strategy to win and with none of the answers that I think the American people are owed,” Johnson said after meeting with Zelenskiy.

Biden, who met with Zelenskiy later at the White House, said he would not walk away from Ukraine and neither would the American people. He warned lawmakers that they risked handing a victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin if they did not approve the request for aid.

“Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine,” he said during a press conference with the Ukrainian leader. “We must … prove him wrong.”

Earlier in the Oval Office, Biden told Zelenskiy, “We’re gonna stay at your side,” saying that Congress needed to pass legislation approving the aid “before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

Zelenskiy said he heard “great many things” during his talks with political leaders in Washington and was thankful for the support of the Biden administration and lawmakers, but time will tell if the U.S. will continue to help fund its defense against Russia.

“There were signals. They were more than positive. But we know that there are words and there are concrete results. We will count on a great result,” Zelenskiy said.

He also rejected any calls to cede Ukrainian territory to Russia.

“How can Ukraine simply give away its territory? This is absolutely insane,” Zelenskiy said. “Let’s be honest. … Our people live there…our children. It’s a part of our society. We’re talking about people who live there.”