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Media claims Zelenska skipped Biden's address over Navalnaya, Presidential Office cites different reasons

6 March, 2024 Wednesday
15:10

The Washington Post wrote that First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska turned down an invitation to attend Joe Biden's address to Congress on Thursday, March 7, because she was expected to sit next to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's widow, Yulia. Ukraine’s Office of the President gives another reason

The Washington Post reported the information, citing American officials.

It noted that the White House's plan was to seat US First Lady Jill Biden next to Olena Zelenska and Yulia Navalnaya. 

"The image of both women, each a symbol of resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin, would offer a powerful backdrop to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress," the outlet writes.

However, Navalnaya's potential presence caused discomfort for Zelenska, in part because of the late politician's position on Crimea's belonging. 

A White House official said that Zelenska's decision was likely due to "schedule conflicts" and referred further questions to the first lady's office, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Navalnaya also refused to attend Biden's speech, allegedly because she was feeling fatigued.

According to one US official, the White House probably did not inform Kyiv that Navalnaya had decided not to attend the event. 

Another possible reason for the Ukrainian First Lady’s refusal is President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's desire to avoid politicizing the issue of providing aid to Ukraine and spoiling relations with the Republican Party.

In his speech on Thursday, March 7, President Biden is expected to call on House Republicans to pass funding for Ukraine "as soon as possible."

Presidential office’s response

In a comment to Ukrainska Pravda, unnamed representatives of the Presidential Office confirmed that the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States had indeed recently received an invitation for the first lady to attend the US president's speech to Congress on March 7.

They said that the reason for Zelenska's refusal was different, namely, "overlapping schedules."

"Due to the planned events in the schedule, including a visit to Kyiv by children from an orphanage, which was planned in advance, unfortunately, the first lady will not be able to take part in the event," the Office said.

  • The US Department of Defense has called on Congress to pass a $60 billion bill for Ukraine as soon as possible, as Ukraine needs all the resources included in this package.

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