The White House confirmed that Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska, and Yulia Navalnaya, wife of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, declined invitations to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union (SoTU) address on Thursday.

The White House had planned to seat Zelenska and Navalnaya near First Lady Jill Biden, according to the Washington Post. However, both declined the invitation, American media houses reported.

The request came as Congress fights over securing more money for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“Due to scheduled events, including a visit of children from an orphanage to Kyiv, which was planned in advance, the first lady will unfortunately not be able to attend the event,” Tetiana Haiduchenko, Zelenska’s press secretary, told media outlets.

Reportedly, the seating arrangement caused discomfort for some Ukrainians due to Navalny’s statements regarding Crimea.

Navalny had suggested that Crimea, which Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed in 2014, belonged to Russia, despite condemning Putin’s aggression.

Yulia Navalnaya opted out due to the recent passing of her husband Alexei Navalny.

“Yulia was indeed invited and considered going, but I think everyone forgets the circumstances against which the events unfolded,” her spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, told The Washington Post.

She added, “Yulia’s husband died two weeks ago. She’s been travelling all this time. Today is the first day she’s been home at all. Like any human being, she needs time to recover, and so while she very much appreciates the invitation, she needs to recover at least a little now.”


Press Secretary Jean-Pierre did not comment on the specific details of President Biden’s foreign policy address in the State of the Union but reiterated the administration’s call for House Republicans to support additional aid for Ukraine.

“The president’s going to continue to make his case that House Republicans need to move forward. The speaker needs to put the national security supplemental on the floor.

The Press Secretary declined to share further details on the reasons for their absence in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

Mar 7, 2024


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