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6 Mar, 2024 12:46

Zelensky’s wife snubs Biden – WaPo

The Ukrainian first lady has turned down an invitation to Thursday’s State of the Union address, citing a tight schedule
Zelensky’s wife snubs Biden – WaPo

Ukrainian first lady Elena Zelenskaya has declined an invitation to attend US President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday, citing a busy schedule. According to the Washington Post, the real reason for her refusal may be because a similar offer was extended to Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

Zelenskaya’s office confirmed on Wednesday that the Ukrainian Embassy had received an offer for her to attend the event in Washington DC.

“However, due to scheduled events… the First Lady, unfortunately, won’t be able to participate,” representatives added. The Washington Post also quoted an unnamed White House official as referring to “schedule conflicts” as the reason behind the decision.

The newspaper, however, cited anonymous sources “familiar with [Kiev’s] deliberations” indicating that Zelenskaya’s non-attendance is due to the invitation to Navalnaya. Ukrainian authorities were reportedly angered by comments her late husband made shortly after Crimea became a Russian region in 2014, when Navalny stated the peninsula was historically Russian. The opposition figure, who died at an Arctic penal colony last month, did denounce Moscow’s military operation against Ukraine in February 2022.

According to the Post, “the intent had been to seat first lady Jill Biden near [Zelenskaya] and Yulia Navalnaya,” with the two women representing a “symbol of resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” The White House had reportedly hoped their presence would serve as a “powerful backdrop to President Biden’s address.”

A representative for Navalnaya, however, said she will not be attending the event either.

“Yulia’s husband died two weeks ago. She’s been traveling all this time. Today is the first day she’s been home at all. Like any human being, she needs time to recover,” Kira Yarmysh told the Post.

The newspaper quoted other anonymous officials as suggesting that Zelenskaya’s refusal to appear may also have been motivated by a desire not to antagonize US Republicans, with her presence potentially being interpreted as a sign that Kiev is closely allied with Biden and the Democrats.

The Post suggested that the Ukrainian leadership is anxious to curry favor with the GOP in the hope that Republicans in Congress will eventually unblock Biden’s latest foreign aid package, which has earmarked $60 billion for Kiev.