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ZelUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

What Zelensky told us

We had the opportunity to sit down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday night with a very small group of reporters and editors in D.C.

It was quite the experience – especially since it came after Zelensky was on Capitol Hill meeting with key figures in our core audience, including dozens of senators and Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Of course, Ukraine funding is one of the most contentious issues before Congress right now.

The tens of billions of dollars in military, economic and humanitarian aid that’s flowed from Washington to Kyiv is in danger of stopping. Case in point – House Republicans may be forced to strip Ukraine money from their version of the FY2024 Defense spending bill in order to get it through the chamber.

For his part, McCarthy signaled that he had a good meeting with Zelensky Thursday. We asked Zelensky for his view on their interaction.

“[McCarthy] said that they will be on our side — it’s not simple — that they will support” Ukraine, Zelensky said.

Here are some more highlights from our talk with Zelensky.

No. 1: Zelensky said Ukrainian forces will retake Bakhmut and two other unnamed cities from the Russians. He also said Ukraine will continue to fight through the winter months, when military operations become much more difficult. Here’s more:

Zelensky’s confidence that he understands Putin was striking to us.

No. 2: Zelensky is hopeful he’ll get the long-range missiles from the United States that he says Ukraine needs to combat the Russians.

“We have to. I think yes,” Zelensky said. “Because we don’t have another way out.”

No. 3: Zelensky said he had a very positive meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Read between the lines there. Ukraine’s relationship with Israel is slightly complicated by the fact that Israel has close ties to Russia. What Zelensky seems to be saying is that you cannot have a strong relationship with Russia and be an enemy of Iran. Iran is supplying Russian forces with drones and other weapons that are being used against Ukraine.

Jake Sherman

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