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WP: Zelenska declines State of Union invite likely amid Navalny widow’s planned attendance

However, Zelesnka’s Office said the First Lady declined an invitation to attend President Biden’s State of the Union address on 7 March due “to a scheduling conflict with a planned visit to Kyiv’s orphanages.”
Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, wears brooch of RB brand at the coronation of King Charles. Credit: RB via Instagram
WP: Zelenska declines State of Union invite likely amid Navalny widow’s planned attendance

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska declined an invitation from the White House to attend the State of the Union address on 7 March, the Washington Post reported on 5 March.

The White House intended to seat First Lady Jill Biden near Olena Zelenska and Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died last month in an Arctic prison, according to officials familiar with the planning, the Washington Post (WP)

The image of both women, “each a symbol of resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” according to the WP, reportedly should have offered a backdrop to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress.

However, Navalnaya’s potential presence caused discomfort for the Ukrainians, said people familiar with Kyiv’s deliberations, in particular, due to Navalny’s past statements that Crimea belonged to Russia.

A White House official attributed Zelenska’s decision to “schedule conflicts” and referred further questions to Zelenska’s office. Zelenska’s office said, “due to scheduled events, including a planned visit to Kyiv with children from an orphanage, the First Lady won’t be able to participate in the event.”

Navalnaya also declined to attend Biden’s address, citing fatigue and the need to “recover” after the death of her husband, according to her spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.

One US official said the White House likely did not inform Kyiv that Navalnaya had decided against attending. However, according to people familiar with the situation, her presence wasn’t the only concern for the Ukrainians.

A White House spokesman said that in his speech on 7 March, Biden would urge House Republicans to pass a decision on funding for Ukraine “as soon as possible.”

Ukraine is lobbying House Republicans to allow a vote on Biden’s request for $60 billion in aid, which the Republicans oppose. Ukraine faces a significant shortage of artillery and loses strategic towns along the front lines because of Russia’s better-equipped forces, which continue its offensive.

The WP reported that every year, the US First Lady invites a number of people to join her during the President’s State of the Union speech, in which the president often mentions them when highlighting or promoting a particular policy or issue.

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