(NewsNation) — After a surprise visit to Washington, D.C. and a new aid package, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy still faces the ongoing fight to repel Russia from his country and repair what the fighting has left behind.
Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine after a visit his people hailed as a success, a visit during which he addressed Congress with a speech thanking Americans for their support, reassured them that Ukraine is still strong in the wake of Russia’s continued attacks, and secured an aid package worth $1.8 billion.
Some Republicans have questioned U.S. aid to Ukraine and raised the possibility that a GOP-led House of Representatives could pull back on assistance.
“We have sent more money to Ukraine than all of Europe combined,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back on criticism of tax dollars, echoing Zelenskyy’s comments to lawmakers.
“As the president said last night, this money is not charity. It is an investment in global security and democracy,” Pelosi said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned military aid to Ukraine would be an aggravation of the war, which has been going on since February.
“They say they may send Patriot there, fine, we will crack the Patriot too,” Putin told reporters, adding that the deliveries will only extend the fighting. “Those who do it do so in vain,” Putin said. “It only drags out the conflict.”
Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, accused Zelenskyy and American officials of “focusing on war … and further tying the Ukrainian regime to the needs of Washington.”
Russian state TV sought to downplay the military and political support Zelenskyy received in Washington, stressing in a news segment that not all members of Congress showed up to listen to Zelenskyy’s speech. Commentators also criticized the Ukrainian leader’s “casual attire” during his White House visit with President Joe Biden.
Russia’s defense minister recently called for expanding the country’s military by 500,000 troops. Russia does have a draft, but many men of eligible age use college deferments or health reasons to avoid being called up for service. There have been reports of Russians fleeing the country to avoid fighting in Ukraine.
U.S. officials also said the Wagner Group, a Russian-backed mercenary organization, recently received arms from North Korea to help in the fighting.
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, called it “despicable” that Russia, a permanent veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, which imposed the sanctions, is now using weapons procured from North Korea and Iran “to pursue its war of aggression against Ukraine.”
Ukrainians, in the meantime, are still facing an ongoing barrage of airstrikes from Russian forces who targeted critical infrastructure, leaving Ukrainian cities without power or heat in the middle of winter. As Russian soldiers have withdrawn from key areas, they have also left behind mines and dangerous booby traps that Ukrainians are still working to clear.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.