Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in talks with Congress to visit Washington as early as Wednesday, said people familiar with the matter.
The plans are not final and will depend on security considerations, the people said.
His visit would coincide with a vote on an annual $1.7tn spending bill that includes nearly $45bn in assistance for Ukraine. The Biden administration is also finalising plans to send the Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine — a demand the Zelenskyy administration has made as Russia has stepped up attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
The visit would be the first time Zelenskyy has left Ukraine since Russia invaded 300 days ago. Zelenskyy has been looking for an opportunity to visit Washington since the summer, said officials close to the president, who said security was the biggest issue standing in the way of a visit.
Ukrainian officials also said he would want to tie any visit to a tangible deliverable from the Biden administration, such as the Patriot system. It was not immediately clear whether he would visit the White House though it would be unlikely he would come to Washington without meeting US president Joe Biden.
The US National Security Council and Zelenskyy’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The White House did not reply to a request for comment on whether Zelenskyy would meet Biden.
Zelenskyy’s team has been in discussions to visit Capitol Hill, the people familiar with the matter said. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, sent a message to all members of the House on Tuesday to encourage in-person attendance to Wednesday’s House session, where a vote on the omnibus bill will take place, saying the session would include “a very special focus on democracy”.
During a visit to Bakhmut on Tuesday, Ukrainian troops gave Zelenskyy a Ukrainian flag they had signed to pass on to the US Congress for their support.
Plans for a possible visit also come as the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, has said it will be more difficult to pass additional assistance to Ukraine next year when his party takes control of the House. Zelenskyy’s visit could put additional pressure on House Republicans who intend to vote against the omnibus spending bill.
Additional reporting by Christopher Miller in New York