Jill Biden meets Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska at the White House

Zelenska was greeted at the White House by President Joe Biden and Jill Biden. The president handed a large bouquet of flowers to Zelenska as she got out of the car and the two first ladies hugged.

According to the White House, the first ladies “will discuss the continued support of the United States to the Ukrainian government and its people as they defend their democracy and deal with the significant human impacts of the war in Russia, which will be felt for decades. years. .”

Zelenska will first attend a private meeting with Biden, followed by an expanded bilateral meeting with Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Deputy Administrator of the US Agency for International Development Isobel Coleman, under -Secretary of State for Political Affairs Toria Nuland and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

During the bilateral meeting, the White House said, the first ladies “will discuss how the United States can continue to alleviate suffering through support and humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, and the need to hold responsible for those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities. ”

Biden and Zelenska first met in person in May, when Biden took a stealth trip to Ukraine. The first ladies had been in communication before their meeting, which was the first time Zelenska had come out of hiding since the Russian invasion began in February. During their hour-long closed-door meeting, Zelenska shared with Biden her concerns about the emotional health of Ukrainian children.

In his opening remarks to welcome Zelenska to the White House, Biden recalled that visit.

“When I came back, one of the things I said was that you can’t walk into a war zone and come back without feeling the heartache and the pain of the people I met,” Biden said in the Blue Room alongside other US officials.

“You asked me then to talk about mental health issues, and so, I came back and spoke to my team,” she continued. “I think you received my letter about what we are doing to help with the mental health of mothers and children who have really suffered from such tragedy and atrocities, and so I have been working on it. The team has worked on this.”

Biden said each of the agencies in the room would tell Zelenska what specifically they had been working on to address her concerns.

Zelenska is in Washington this week to highlight the human cost of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. She met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Monday, and is scheduled to address members of Congress on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Monday that Blinken at the meeting “underscored the comprehensive and enduring commitment of the United States to supporting Ukraine’s victory in the Russia’s unjust and unprovoked war”. Blinken and Zelenska also “talked about the immense and growing human costs of the full-scale invasion of Russia”.

Zelenska’s visit to the White House comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired several top officials from Ukraine’s intelligence agency, the SBU.

Among those sacked is the deputy head of the SBU, Volodymyr Horbenko. Zelensky also dismissed the heads of regional offices in Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Sumy, Transcarpathia and Zhytomyr.

Zelensky also recently suspended the head of the SBU, Ivan Bakanov, and filed a resolution with the Ukrainian parliament for his dismissal, launching an investigation into the presence of Russian collaborators in the ranks of his organization.

As Russia’s offensive push into Ukraine focuses on the Donbass region, Zelenska’s visit focused on the human cost of war as missile attacks escalate in southern Ukraine.

Nataliya Humeniuk, spokesperson for the Ukrainian army’s Southern Operational Command, said six Russian Kalibr missiles hit a village in the Odessa region, hitting residential buildings near a school and a cultural center . Six people had been injured.

Humeniuk also said the Russians were using civilians as human shields, “as well as keeping them in this territory for the so-called referendum.”

“Occupiers are gradually releasing people towards Zaporizhzhia,” she said.

CNN’s Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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