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Jill Biden meets with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House

By Maegan Vazquez and Kate Bennett, CNN

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is at the White House on Tuesday to privately meet with first lady Jill Biden and take part in a larger bilateral meeting with American officials.

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

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

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 says, the first ladies “will discuss how the United States can continue to alleviate suffering through support and humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people, and the need to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities.”

Biden and Zelenska first met in person in May, when Biden made a stealth trip to Ukraine. The first ladies had been in communication prior to their meeting, which was the first time Zelenska emerged from hiding since the start of the Russian invasion in February. During their one-hour closed meeting, Zelenska shared with Biden her concerns for the emotional health of Ukrainian children.

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

“When I came back, one of the things that I said was you cannot go into a war zone and come back and not feel the sorrow and pain of the people that 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 I talked to my team,” she continued. “I think you received my letter about what we’re doing to help with mental health for the mothers and the children who have really suffered such tragedy and the atrocities, and so I’ve been working on it. The team has been working on it.”

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

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

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Monday that Blinken, in the meeting, “emphasized the United States’ comprehensive and enduring commitment to support Ukraine’s victory in Russia’s unjust and unprovoked war.” Blinken and Zelenska also “spoke about the immense and growing human costs of Russia’s full-scale invasion.”

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

Among those sacked is the deputy head of the SBU, Volodymyr Horbenko. Zelensky also sacked the heads of the regional offices in Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Sumy, Zakarpattia 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 among the ranks of his organization.

While the thrust of the Russian offensive in Ukraine is focused on the Donbas region, Zelenska’s visit focused the human cost of the war also comes as missile attacks have picked up in southern Ukraine.

Nataliya Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s Operational Command South, said that six Russian Kalibr missiles had hit a village in Odesa region, striking residential buildings close to a school and a cultural center. Six people had been injured.

Humeniuk alsop said the Russians were using civilians as human shields, “as well as to keep them in that territory for the so-called referendum.”

“The occupiers are gradually releasing people in the direction of Zaporizhzhia,” she said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the day of the week Zelenska visited the White House.

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

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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