Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s first wartime overseas visit comes after 10 months of relentless Russian attacks.
But Ukrainians in Kyiv are cautiously optimistic that the U.S. trip, announced hours before Zelensky’s arrival in Washington, D.C., could boost Ukraine’s efforts and send a signal to the world.
“It was a very unexpected visit for us. The expectations were really high,” said Natalia Dmytieva as she played with her grandson at a Kyiv playground in It was attacked by Russian missiles in October.
“This is no longer war; this is terrorism,” she said of Russia’s repeated attacks on Ukraine’s energy grid. “Ukraine should not live in darkness.”
“The whole world is preparing for the Christmas holidays, but we can’t do it this year,” she said. “It’s hard to explain to kids why we don’t have trees, why we can’t have as much fun as we do on TV,” she told CNN.
A Ukrainian air commando officer, who declined to be named, added that he was “pleasantly surprised” by news of the visit.
“Probably the importance of the visit was so high that he decided to go in person. So I welcome that,” he said.
The official hoped Zelensky would use the trip to draw global attention to the conflict. “If I were president, I would say, ‘Imagine if Hitler could have been stopped in the first phase of World War II,'” “We’re not only fighting for our freedom, we’re fighting for theirs too.”
Law student Ruslan Zakharchenko praised Zelensky for 10 months of uninterrupted leadership of Ukraine’s war response. “He stayed here during the most difficult times and never left us,” he said.
But he said Zelensky’s trip to the US was a “reasonable step” to cement Washington’s support.
“The goal should be … to win this war,” he added. “In order to achieve this, we need rapid delivery of weapons and military equipment.”
Several Kyiv residents said they wanted the United States to commit to sending more weapons to Ukraine, strengthening its air defenses and imposing tougher penalties on Russia.
However, while some residents are hopeful, others say the trip is unlikely to mark a turning point.
“We should not expect anything from the United States,” said Andrei, who has worked in the Ukrainian military and declined to give his last name. “The worst thing is hoping for some help and being disappointed when it doesn’t.”
“Zelensky may want what the US doesn’t want to give us, and vice versa,” he said.