Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy witnessed the swearing-in on Sunday of Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei.
It was the Ukrainian leader’s first official trip to Latin America as Kyiv continues to court support among developing nations for its 21-month-old fight against Russia’s invading forces.
During Zelenskyy’s visit to Buenos Aires, his office and the White House announced he would travel to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
Biden has asked Congress for a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel, along with other national security priorities. But the request is caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security.
The visit to Washington would focus on “ensuring the unity of the U.S., Europe and the world” in supporting Ukraine in the war against Russia, Zelenskyy’s office said.
In Argentina, Milei welcomed Zelenskyy at the presidential palace after his inauguration. The two shared an extended hug, exchanged words and then Milei, who has said he intends to convert to Judaism, presented his Ukrainian counterpart with a menorah as a gift. They were expected to have a longer one-on-one meeting later on Sunday.
A political outsider who has railed against what he calls entrenched official corruption in Argentina and promised to uproot the political establishment, Milei ran on a pro-Western foreign policy platform, repeatedly expressing distrust of Moscow and Beijing.
Zelenskyy phoned Milei shortly after the Argentine’s electoral victory last month, thanking him for his “clear support for Ukraine.” In its readout of the call, Milei’s office said he had offered to host a summit between Ukraine and Latin American states, a potential boon to Kyiv’s monthslong effort to strengthen its relationships with countries of the global south.
Zelenskyy and other senior Ukrainian officials have repeatedly presented Ukraine’s war against Russia as resistance against colonial aggression, hoping to win support from Asian, African and Latin American states that in the past struggled to free themselves from foreign domination, sometimes turning to Moscow for support against Western powers.
Zelenskyy used the trip to Argentina to meet leaders of several developing countries. He met the prime minister of the West African country of Cape Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, on his way to Buenos Aires. Once in Argentina, Zelenskyy met separately with the presidents of Paraguay, Ecuador and Uruguay, his office said.
“The support and strong united voice of Latin American countries that stand with the people of Ukraine in the war for our freedom and democracy is very important for us,” Zelenskyy said in a statement.
He also had a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, discussing “the details of the next defense package from the French Republic, which will significantly enhance Ukraine’s firepower, and the current needs of our country in armaments,” Zelenskyy’s office said.