Bidens welcome Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska to White House

US president surprises Ukrainian leader's wife with bouquet of flowers

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US President Joe Biden, carrying a bouquet of flowers, and his wife Jill welcomed Olena Zelenska to the White House before the Ukrainian president's wife addressed Congress on Wednesday.

Ms Zelenska, the wife of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, embraced Ms Biden as she received the flowers from the US president.

The two women then held talks with their delegations inside the White House, where Ms Biden recounted her visit to Ukraine in May.

Ms Zelenska largely disappeared with her two children during the early months of Russia's invasion, but came out of seclusion to meet Ms Biden.

Bidens and Ukraine's first lady meet at White House

Bidens and Ukraine's first lady meet at White House

"When I came back, one of the things that I said was, 'You cannot go into a war zone and come back and not feel the sorrow and the pain of the people'," Ms Biden said at the start of their meeting.

Ms Biden, who visited a school that was sheltering displaced Ukrainians in the war-torn country, said she spoke to her team about the mental health problems facing women and children who witness the horrors of Russia's invasion.

Before their White House meeting, Ms Zelenska accepted a human rights award on behalf of her people for Ukraine's fight against Russia's assault on the country.

“It is an honour to be here and accept this award in the name of every Ukrainian man and woman fighting Russian aggression today,” she said, speaking through a translator.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation recognised the Ukrainian people with its Dissident Human Rights Award.

Moscow has called its actions a "special military operation", while Mr Zelenskyy has remained in Ukraine to lead Kyiv in fending off the attack.

Ms Zelenska's scheduled address to US Congress comes after her husband pleaded to US legislators for more aid and a no-fly zone in March.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: July 20, 2022, 1:48 PM