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Ukraine war live updates: President Zelenskyy to visit Washington today in high-stakes trip aimed at rallying support for Ukraine

Zelenskyy to visit Washington today for talks with Biden

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden on the phone in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Dec. 11, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to visit Washington on Wednesday in what will be his first known trip outside Ukraine since the war began in February.

U.S. President Joe Biden will host Zelenskyy at the White House, where they will have an “extended” meeting Wednesday afternoon, a senior administration official said Tuesday. Zelenskyy will also address Congress and have other bilateral meetings.

The senior administration official told reporters that Biden will announce a package of nearly $2 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, which will include a Patriot missile system. Russia warned the U.S. against sending the missile defense system to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy tweeted earlier Wednesday that the meeting would be focused on strengthening the “resilience and defense capabilities” of Ukraine.

When asked why the visit is taking place now, and about the risk assessment for Zelenskyy to leave Ukraine, the senior administration official said the U.S. had consulted with Zelenskyy on “security parameters” for him to be able to leave the country, come to U.S. briefly, and return home to Ukraine after “a few short hours on the ground.”

“He makes his own determinations about that travel based on what he believes is best going to deliver for his people. He made the same calculus when it comes to coming to the United States. He feels this is something is going to aid the fight for Ukraine, and we are determined to ensure that they fight in Ukraine by projecting a strong message of unity and resolve from the White House, from Washington,” the official said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Washington prepares for possible Zelenskyy visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a virtual address to Congress at the U.S. Capitol on March 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. Zelenskyy addressed Congress as Ukraine continues to defend itself from an ongoing Russian invasion.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

White House and congressional security officials were laying the groundwork for a possible visit Wednesday from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, five other sources familiar with the planning told NBC News.

U.S. Capitol Police, State Department agents and emergency management personnel have reportedly been preparing for Zelenskyy’s possible arrival. The Ukrainian president, who is currently the target of Russian forces amid its brutal assault on his country, could address lawmakers during a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, they said.

Plans are flexible and dependent on security, the sources say. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed to NBC News that she invited Zelenskyy to D.C., but she wouldn’t say whether he was coming.

— Chelsey Cox

Electricity supply in Kyiv region in ‘critical’ state after overnight Russia attacks, Ukrainian power company says

Electricity workers from a team brought in from Odessa and wearing bulletproof vests and helmets prepare to start work to repair a destroyed high voltage power line on December 01, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine. Teams of electrical workers have been brought in from across Ukraine to help restore power to Kherson City and surrounding areas. 

Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images

Ukraine’s state electric company said that much of the area surrounding Kyiv is experiencing significant outages due to Russian shelling and drone attacks on Monday night.

“In the capital, less than half of the consumption needs are provided, and the priority is the critical infrastructure supply,” the company wrote in an update on its Facebook page.

“It is expected that today it will be possible to turn on certain equipment that will allow to slightly increase the level of power reliability, reduce the power deficit in the capital’s power hub and bring power to more consumers,” the company added, according to an NBC News translation.

— Amanda Macias

More than half of the homes in Ukraine damaged from Russia’s war as harsh winter season sets in

Vasily Melnik lives inside a basement next to the building beside where graffiti artist Banksy has displayed a picture on a the wall of a destroyed building on November 22, 2022 in Horenka, Ukraine.

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

The International Rescue Center, or IRC, said that more than 25% of those displaced by Russia’s war do not have access to sufficient heating as the region’s brutal winter season settles in.

The IRC also said that approximately 61.3% of the homes in Ukraine are damaged due to Russian shelling.

“People’s capacity to cope with cold is further impaired by the destruction and failure of critical infrastructure, lack of heating and electricity and the trauma of living under constant shelling,” wrote Michael Despines, IRC’s regional director for Ukraine, in a release.

“We are seriously concerned that these compounded factors will lead to a serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation and spark further displacement and increase the vulnerabilities of those who are forced to stay,” Despines added.

Despines said that the ongoing shelling makes it impossible to repair individual homes as well as shelters. He added that IRC teams “are determined to stay and deliver, amidst blackouts and freezing winter temperatures.”

— Amanda Macias

‘They are superhumans,’ Zelenskyy says of soldiers in eastern frontline city

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the Kharkiv region for the first time since Russia started the attacks against his country on February 24, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on May 29, 2022.(Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the armed forces fighting in the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut in a surprise visit to thank soldiers in the frontline city, which has experienced intense Russian shelling for weeks.

“The East is holding out because Bakhmut is fighting. This is the fortress of our morale. In fierce battles and at the cost of many lives, freedom is being defended here for all of us,” Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel.

“Bakhmut defenders deserve our maximum support and our highest gratitude,” he added. “That’s why I am with them today. They are superhumans. They are our strength and our heroes,” Zelenskyy said.

— Amanda Macias

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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