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Zelenskyy: 'We will have a chance at victory' thanks to weapons provided to Ukraine in new U.S. aid package

Ukraine's president thanked U.S. leaders for passing a $60.8 billion aid package through the House over the weekend.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.S. political leaders Sunday for approving an aid package to Ukraine over the weekend, saying the new aid will give the country a chance at "victory" as it defends itself from Russia.

“I think this support will really strengthen the armed forces, I pray, and we will have a chance at victory if Ukraine really gets the weapons system, which we need so much, which thousands of soldiers need so much,” Zelenskyy, who spoke through an interpreter, said on NBC News' "Meet the Press."

The House passed a bill Saturday to provide Ukraine with $60.8 billion of aid weeks after the Senate passed a massive bill with aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as funding for increased border security. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., opted not to put that bill bundling aid for the three countries on the floor, instead choosing to pass three separate aid bills.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Thursday.Kay Nietfeld / dpa / picture alliance via Getty Images

The House bills are expected to pass the Senate this week, which Zelenskyy specifically urged.

“We really need to get this to the final point. We need to get approved by the Senate,” he said Sunday.

“Then we want to help get things as fast as possible so that we get some tangible assistance for the soldiers on the front line as soon as possible — not in another six months — so that they would be able to move ahead,” he added.

In a statement after the House passed the bills, President Joe Biden said, “I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs.”

Zelenskyy spoke about those urgent needs Sunday, telling moderator Kristen Welker: “We need long-range weapons to not lose people on the front line, because we have, we have casualties because we cannot reach that far. Our weapons are not that long-range.

“We need [that] and air defense. Those are our priorities right now,” he added.

Asked whether the aid will help Ukraine win the war or just prolong it, Zelenskyy told Welker: “It depends on when we actually get weapons on the ground. As you said it, Kristen, if we get it in half a year — well, we’ve had the process stalled for half a year and we’ve had losses in several directions. Losses in men, in equipment.

“Now we have the chance to stabilize the situation and to overtake the initiative, and that’s why we need to actually have the weapons systems,” he added. “Giving the U.S. a specific timeline of the war, well, it depends how soon they get this aid. There are so many variables, so many factors.”

Zelenskyy also responded to recent reporting that former President Donald Trump, if elected, would pressure Ukraine to give up some territory to Russia in exchange for ending the war, saying, "Rumors and different hearsay, I don't believe that."

He also expressed doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would ever agree to and abide by such a settlement, telling Welker, "You can never trust Putin."

"The strategy of ending the war should be based not on the words which Putin says or some other people from his entourage say, but on something very specific, something very tangible in Ukraine that is independent and democratic," he said.

"I’m confident that everyone is interested in that," he added. "All the political leaders, they are also interested to have Ukraine independent and sovereign and democratic. It’s of interest for both the Republicans and the Democrats."

For weeks, Zelenskyy has expressed the urgent need for weapons and supplies to continue defending Ukraine from Russian attacks.

In the months since U.S. aid to Ukraine lapsed, Ukraine’s military supplied grew depleted and the military was forced to withdraw from a key eastern city — Avdiivka — in February. 

Earlier this month, Russia was firing five artillery shells for every one fired by Ukrainian forces, Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. European Command, told NBC News. He warned that the disparity could increase in the near future without more aid.

On Sunday, Zelenskyy pushed back against complaints that the U.S. has sunk too much money into the war and will continue to have to do so, telling Welker, “[Americans] first and foremost are protecting freedom and democracy all over Europe.”

“The U.S. Army now does not have to fight protecting NATO countries. Ukrainians are doing that. And it’s only ammo that the civilized world is providing, and I think it’s a good decision,” he said.