Pelosi to Zelensky: 'The fight for Ukraine is the fight for democracy itself'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with Nancy Pelosi on a sidewalk near a building's entryway in front of a few onlookers.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi upon her arrival in Kyiv on April 30. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

In a letter formally inviting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address a joint session of Congress during his visit to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lauded his leadership and the bravery of the Ukrainian people amid Russia’s ongoing war.

“America and the world are in awe of the heroism of the Ukrainian people,” Pelosi wrote. “In the face of Putin’s horrific atrocities, Ukrainian freedom fighters have inspired the world with an iron will and an unbreakable spirit — fighting back against Russia’s brutal, unjustified invasion.”

“During this dark moment, your courageous, patriotic, indefatigable leadership has rallied not only your people, but the world, to join the frontlines of the fight for freedom,” she continued. “America and our allies have proudly answered your call: imposing devastating sanctions on Putin and ensuring Ukraine has the resources it needs to win this war.”

“The fight for Ukraine is the fight for democracy itself,” she added. “We look forward to hearing your inspiring message of unity, resilience and determination.”

Pelosi and Zelensky stand side by side in front of flags.
Pelosi and Zelensky pose for a picture before their meeting in Kyiv on April 30. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

Zelensky is due to meet with President Biden at the White House on Wednesday afternoon before his address to Congress on Wednesday evening. It is his first known trip outside of Ukraine since Russia’s war began, 300 days ago.

On Tuesday, Zelensky made a surprise trip to visit Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Bakhmut on Ukraine’s contested Donetsk province. In a video released by his office, Zelensky was handed a Ukrainian flag that he said he would deliver to U.S. leaders.

His speech will likely be the last time Pelosi, who will step down as speaker in January, presides over a joint session of Congress.

According to a U.S. official, the idea for Zelensky’s trip was first raised during a bilateral meeting in October between Pelosi and her Ukrainian counterpart, Speaker of the Ukrainian Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk, in Zagreb, Croatia.

In May, Pelosi made an unannounced trip to Kyiv to meet with Zelensky. At that time, she was the most senior U.S. official to meet in person with the Ukrainian leader since the war began.