Zelenskyy calls for international support, Harris underscores unity with Ukraine

Vice President Kamala Harris said the administration would work to “secure the resources and weapons” that Ukraine needs to succeed against Russia.

US Vice President Kamala Harris - Volodymyr Zelenskyy meeting in Munich
Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

At the high-profile Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy drummed up international support for Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia, saying that U.S. senators and world leaders must understand that a win for Russia in Ukraine would have repercussions beyond its borders.

NBC News reports that Zelenskyy’s rallying cry came in the wake of fresh outrage among world leaders over the death of prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny while in custody at a Siberian prison on Friday, and Ukraine’s withdrawal this week from Avdiivka, a key battleground on the front against Russia.

Calling for the restoration of a “rules-based world order,” Zelenskyy described Russia’s invasion as a “war against any rules at all.”

Vice President Kamala Harris stood side by side with Zelenskyy in a joint press conference later in the day as she praised his resolve and successes in the continued fight against Russia, saying that U.S. will continue to stand behind Ukraine.

Harris said later during an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that this is a “moment of reckoning” for the United States.

“We need to do our part. And we have been very clear that the United States Congress must act,” Harris told NBC News.

“This is a moment where America has the ability to actually demonstrate through action where we stand on issues like this, which is, do we stand with our friends in the face of extreme brutality or not? And I say we stand with our friends.”

Zelenskyy was met with an extended standing ovation as he called for the world to “act now” to oppose Russia, using his floor time to renew support for his country’s long and largely stalemated defense against Russia, as attention turned in recent months to the Israel-Gaza war.

He pressed for more artillery and long-range weapons before the audience of security officials from the U.S., E.U., China and the Middle East.

“Ukrainians have been holding for 724 days,” he said to loud applause as he promised that Ukraine could get its land back and win the war against Russia.

Ukrainian forces withdrew from the key town of Avdiivka this week in the most high-profile retreat for the country since its withdrawal from the city of Bakhmut last May.

The retreat from Avdiivka came amid delays in new U.S. military aid to Ukraine, which has been stalled in Congress for months due to growing Republican opposition.

Speaking at a separate joint press conference with Zelenskyy later on Saturday, Harris said that she and President Joe Biden would work to “secure the resources and weapons” that Ukraine needs to succeed against Russia.

There is no Plan B if Congress does not approve aid, Harris said. “There’s only Plan A, which is to ensure that Ukraine receives what it needs.”

Harris likewise underscored Zelenskyy’s assertion that the death of Navalny in jail was not just another episode in a long history of Putin eradicating his foes, but a direct message to everyone at the Munich Security Conference.

Harris added that Navalny’s death was “proof of Putin’s brutality” and a reminder to the U.S. as to “why our fight for Ukraine is so important.”

“There is no one for whom the ongoing war in Europe does not pose a threat,” Zelenskyy said earlier. “This war defines more than just the place of Ukraine or entire Europe in the world.”

Navalny, an outspoken critic of Putin’s war with Ukraine, went missing in Russia’s penal system in December while serving a 30½-year jail sentence, eventually turning up at a high-security penal colony in a remote town above the Arctic Circle.

He died after feeling unwell following a walk Friday, the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement.

Responding to the death of Navalny on Friday, Biden said he “hope[d] to God it helps” push Congress into approving further support for Ukraine.

His comments came as House Speaker Mike Johnson convened an early recess for Congress on Friday, without approving a $95 billion Defense Department package that includes over $60 billion for Ukraine.

Describing the aid package as “vital” for his country, Zelenskyy said in his press conference with Harris that he was counting on the United States and not looking into any alternatives for the funding.

In an interview with NBC News on Saturday, Harris said she was “certain” the funding for Ukraine would pass if it were put to a vote in the House, citing broad bipartisan support despite opposition from Republican leaders.

“The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten,” Biden said Friday, adding that reticence on Ukraine was reinforcing global fears about whether the U.S. was a responsible ally.

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