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Ukraine first lady Olena Zelenska asks Congress for more weapons

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska speaks to members of the US Congress about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the US Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium on July 20, 2022, in Washington, DC.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, on Wednesday urged bipartisan lawmakers to send more weapons to her homeland as it repels Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Zelenska addressed members of Congress from the same room that her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, did in March. He appeared virtually, as Russia’s war had just begun.

“I’m asking for something now I would never want to ask,” Zelenska said at the U.S. Capitol. “I’m asking for weapons, weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land, but to protect one’s home and the right to wake up alive in that home.”

Zelenska began her 15-minute address with a photo presentation of Ukrainian children killed by Russian missile strikes and shelling across the country.

“I’m asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill,” Zelenska said before a backdrop of graphic and disturbing images from devastated Ukrainian streets.

“While Russia kills, America saves, and you should know about it. We thank you for that,” Zelenska added, pointing to the 15 military aid packages committed thus far.

Ahead of her address to Congress, Zelenska met with first lady Jill Biden at the White House and Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department.

Biden last met with Zelenska during a surprise trip to Ukraine on Mother’s Day.

First lady Jill Biden receives flowers from Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, outside of School 6, a public school that has taken in displaced students in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Sunday, May 8, 2022.

Susan Walsh | AP

Zelenska discussed additional weapons packages while at the White House and, while at the State Department, talked about the mounting war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday that the U.S. is assembling its 16th security assistance kit, which is tailored for the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. has provided about $8 billion in military aid since the war began in late February, including about $2.2 billion in the past month.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said earlier on Wednesday that the next tranche of weapons will include more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. With the four additional heavy rocket systems, the U.S. will have given 16 HIMARS to Ukraine.

The HIMARS, manufactured by defense giant Lockheed Martin, are designed to shoot a variety of missiles from a mobile 5-ton truck.

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