December 21, 2022 Russia-Ukraine and Zelensky news

By Adrienne Vogt, Leinz Vales, Aditi Sangal, Rhea Mogul, Hannah Strange, Sophie Tanno, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 11:14 a.m. ET, December 22, 2022
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11:14 a.m. ET, December 22, 2022

Zelensky presents Congress with flag signed by Ukrainian troops

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky presented Congress with a flag signed by Ukrainian soldiers as a gift to say thank you for the weapons that had been sent.

The flag was given to Zelensky on Tuesday in the frontline city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

"This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight, and we will win because we are united. Ukraine, America, and the entire free world," Zelensky said.

In return, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Zelensky a folded US flag that had flown over the Capitol building on Wednesday.

Members of Congress gave Zelensky a standing ovation and applauded the exchange.

Watch the moment:

8:34 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky urges US Congress to strengthen sanctions against Russia

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged members of the US Congress to strengthen sanctions against Russia and "let the terrorists be held responsible for aggression."

In his address, Zelensky noted that US President Joe Biden supported his 10-point peace plan, but added that each member of Congress can assist in the implementation.

"We need peace. Yes. Ukraine has already offered proposals, which I just discussed with President Biden, our peace formula — 10 points which should and must be implemented for our joint security... and the summit which can be held. I am glad to share that President Biden supported our peace initiative today. Each of you, ladies and gentlemen, can assist in the implementation to ensure that Americans leadership remains solid, bicameral. and bipartisan," Zelensky said.

"You can strengthen sanctions to make Russia feel how ruinous its aggression truly is. It is in your power, really, to help us bring to justice everyone who started this unprovoked and criminal war. Let's do it. Let the terrorist be held responsible for aggression, and compensate all losses done by this war."

Watch the moment:

8:40 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky: "The light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out" at Christmas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainians will celebrate Christmas this year, despite the atrocities of the war, telling Congress: "Even if there is no electricity the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out."

Just like the "brave American soldiers which held their lines" and fought against Hitler's Nazi Germany in 1944, Ukrainian soldiers "are doing the same to Putin's forces this Christmas," Zelensky said to applause.

"If they attack us with Iranian drones, and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other," he added.

"All of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same. Victory. Only victory," Zelensky said.

Watch the moment:

8:44 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky tells Congress their "money is not charity" but an investment in democracy

More than 300 days into the war, soldiers in Ukraine are defending their country, but they need more weapons to win on the battlefield, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Congress.

“Here, the front line, the tyranny — which has no lack of cruelty against the lives of free people — and your support is crucial not just to stand in such fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield,” he said.

“We have artillery, yes, thank you. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.”

Zelensky said Ukraine is fighting for its “independence and freedom” but called for the United States' continued support to achieve those goals.

"Your money is not charity. It is an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way," Zelensky said.

Ukraine's president tried to make the case that although aid benefits Ukraine — it is also in the interest of the United States and other Western allies.

“Iranian deadly drones sent to Russia in hundreds and hundreds became a threat to our critical infrastructure. That is how one terrorist has found the other. It is just a matter of time when they will strike against your other allies if we do not stop them now. We must do it," he said.

“Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender,” Zelensky added.

Watch the moment:

8:22 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky: Russians "use everything" but Ukraine will "never surrender"

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a message of hope for the Ukrainian people during his address to Congress Wednesday, saying the Russians "use everything" against cities such as Bakhmut but Ukraine "holds its lines and will never surrender."

The Russians "have been taking (the city of 70,000 people day and night, but Bakhmut stands," Zelensky said to roaring applause.

"Last year, 70,000 people lived there in Bakhmut... Now only a few civilians stay. Every inch of that land is soaked in blood... Donbas changed hands several time in fierce combat, and even hand-fighting. But the Ukrainian Donbas stands," he said, as members gave him a standing ovation after.

"Russians use everything, everything they have against Bakhmut and other of our beautiful cities, the occupiers have a significant advantage in artillery. They have an advantage in ammunition. They have much more missiles and planes than we ever had. It's true. But our defense forces stand," he said.

Watch the moment:

7:54 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky: The world is too interconnected to stand on the sidelines of Ukraine war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that the world is too interconnected to ignore Russia's war in Ukraine during his address to Congress.

"This battle cannot be frozen, or postponed. It cannot be ignored, hoping that the ocean, or something else will provide a protection," he said. 
"From the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America, and from every country to Australia, the world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and at the same time to feel safe when such a battle continues."

He also highlighted the shared values of the United States and Ukraine.

"Our two nations are allies in this battle. And next year will be a turning point, I know it, the point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom. The freedom of people who stand for their values," he said.

9:09 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky's opening message to Congress: "Ukraine is alive and kicking"

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to Capitol Hill with a strong message: "Ukraine is alive and kicking."

Zelensky is addressing members of Congress after presenting a united front with US President Joe Biden, who assured continued support for Ukraine.

“Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking," the Ukrainian president said Wednesday.

He also thanked Americans and “all those who value freedom and justice,” for their efforts in helping Ukraine.

Watch the moment:

8:05 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

Zelensky greeted with loud and sustained applause as he enters the House floor


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky entered the US House floor to boisterous and sustained applause as he was welcomed by members of Congress and members of US President Joe Biden's Cabinet.

Watch the moment:

7:41 p.m. ET, December 21, 2022

NOW: Zelensky addresses joint session of US Congress 


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is addressing a joint session of US Congress in an effort to appeal to lawmakers and American citizens to continue to support the ongoing war in his country.

Sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he will discuss a peace formula that he told US President Joe Biden about and will express a willingness to have a peace summit of some sort this winter.

Zelensky will also address the American people, noting shared values and directly thanking them and politicians of both parties. But in order to continue to protect his country, he will continue to ask for help with sanctions, weapons, financial assistance and justice — but underlining he has never asked for US troops on the ground, sources told CNN.

Earlier today, Zelensky held a bilateral meeting with Biden and discussed ways which the US can continue its support of Ukraine.