Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to visit the U.S. Capitol in person on Wednesday, sources confirmed to The Hill.
The visit is not set stone, but hinges on security, according to a second source familiar with the planning. The media leaks, the source said, are “not helping.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) confirmed the plans to The Hill. If the visit does materialize, it would likely mark the first time the Ukrainian president has left his country since before Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday encouraging them to “be present for a very special focus on Democracy Wednesday night.”
Punchbowl News first reported on the possible historic visit, citing several sources familiar with the plans.
The visit comes as Zelensky, his top military officials and aides have warned that Russia is planning to renew a large-scale ground invasion of Ukraine, and as the country suffers under devastating aerial attacks that have destroyed its energy and electricity infrastructure entering the winter season.
Congress on Tuesday proposed to provide Ukraine with $45 billion in military, economic and other assistance related to Russia’s war against the country, as part of the omnibus spending package lawmakers hope to pass by the end of the week.
Coons said Zelensky’s visit was a “terrific opportunity” with Congress set to pass another major package of support for Ukraine.
“That President Zelensky is going to make his first trip outside the country since the war began to speak to us, to thank us and to challenge us to continue to support the Ukrainian people I think is the perfect ending to two years where President Biden has had some landmark successes,” he said.
Zelensky in addresses to Ukrainians has said that this week “is extremely important for Ukraine” and “will be quite active for us in terms of international events and negotiations.”
Zelensky addressed Congress virtually in March, urging lawmakers to provide Ukraine with more military support. And Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelensky, visited the Capitol in person in July to highlight the humanitarian horrors facing the civilian victims of the conflict.
Zelensky’s visit would be a profound political statement, particularly if he appeared in a Capitol that was itself the target of an anti-democratic mob last year.
Pelosi was a target of that violence, and since then, Democrats have warned of the dangers of eroding democratic norms — a message that’s gained resonance since former President Trump entered the 2024 presidential race.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) referred questions about Wednesday’s plans to Pelosi. Asked if he was comfortable with the security situation around Zelensky’s potential visit, Schumer said “That’s up to the security.”
Zelensky, since the Russian invasion began, has emerged as the global symbol of defiance in the face of authoritarianism. And having him on hand this week to promote the importance of preserving democratic traditions would mark a significant capstone for Pelosi, who is soon to step out of leadership after two decades at the top of the party.
Updated: 6:40 p.m.