1 of 10 | U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine talk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Julia Nikhinson/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Washington on Thursday to meet with congressional leaders before holding talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, who announced a new $128 million arms-assistance deal for Kiev.
The assistance will provide $128 million worth of U.S. weapons and equipment from Department of Defense stocks. Additionally, Biden said the Department of Defense will provide $197 million in arms and equipment to Ukraine under previously directed drawdowns.
After arriving in D.C. in the morning, Zelensky and first lady Olena Zelenska arrived at the White House by mid-afternoon, where Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeted them at the South Portico.
During the meeting with Zelensky, Biden reiterated continued U.S. support for Ukraine in its war against invading Russia, saying American support would continue as long as it takes and that Russia will be held accountable for human rights abuses and war crimes.
A statement from the White House said Zelensky and Biden also discussed Ukraine's ongoing counteroffensive.
Earlier in the day, Zelensky held a closed-door meeting with House leaders before walking with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for his meeting with the upper chamber of Congress.
The Ukrainian leader was in D.C. on Thursday to persuade the U.S. government to keep funding Kyiv's effort to defend against Russia's invasion and eventually push the forces out of its homeland.
However, Zelensky faced pushback from Republicans in Congress who have become more impatient about the war and U.S. funding for it.
"Where is the accountability on the money we already spent?" House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters Wednesday. "What is the plan for victory? I think that's what the American public wants to know."
Biden backed Zelensky in front of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, saying the United States remains committed to helping Ukraine defend itself and urged supporters to do the same.
Thursday is Zelensky's second wartime visit to Washington, after facing a more favorable Congress in December when he made his first departure from his country during the war. He spoke during a joint session of the House and Senate on that trip.
White House spokesman John Kirby defended the Biden administration's effort to give Kyiv more advanced weapons while walking the tightrope of not escalating the conflict.
"We've evolved the capabilities as the war has evolved, as the needs evolve, and that has had a significant impact on the Ukrainians' ability to defend themselves and to advance in this counteroffensive," Kirby said.
"The progress that they are making, though not as far or as fast as they themselves have said they'd like to go, is not by accident. It's absolutely due in great measure to their bravery and skill on the battlefield. But it is also due, in no small way, to the support that the United States has provided them."
Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at his headquarters after the first round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, on March 31, 2019. Zelensky won that round of the Ukraine presidential election with 30.4% of votes. Photo by Stepan Franko/EPA-EFE