Ukraine’s First Lady and Alexei Navalny’s Widow Both Decline White House Invitations to Biden’s State of the Union

Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, has rejected a White House invitation to attend Thursday’s State of the Union address, dashing President Joe Biden’s dreams of placing her next to Alexi Navalvny’s widow in a show of power against Russia were disrupted.

The White House planned to place Zelenska and Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the slain Russian opposition leader, in Jill Biden’s box on the night of the president’s prime time speech.

The plan was to counteract women as a powerful image Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move comes at a time when Biden wants Congress to approve more aid to Ukraine.

Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House in July 2022 – Zelenska declined an invitation to the State of the Union address

But the idea that Navalnaya could be there caused discomfort for Ukrainians, sources said WashingtonPost.

In Ukraine, Alexei Navalny’s legacy is overshadowed by his previous statements that the Crimea, which Putin annexed in 2014, belonged to Russia.

Alexei Navalny later changed his thinking and supported Ukraine’s borders.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that Biden invited Yulia Navalnaya when he met her and her daughter in San Francisco last month.

Navalnaya ultimately declined the invitation due to exhaustion.

“Yulia was indeed invited and considered going, but I think everyone forgets the circumstances under which the events unfolded,” Navalnaya spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said.

‘Yulia’s husband died two weeks ago. She has been traveling all this time. Today is the first day she is even home. Like any human being, she needs time to recover, and while she appreciates the invitation, she needs to recover at least a little now.”

Olena Zelenska’s office reported a scheduling conflict.

“Due to planned events, including a planned visit to Kiev with children from an orphanage, the First Lady will unfortunately not be able to participate in the event,” her office said.

President Joe Biden hugs Yulia Navalnaya as he meets her in San Francisco, Navalnaya ultimately declined his invitation to State of the Union address

President Joe Biden hugs Yulia Navalnaya as he meets her in San Francisco, Navalnaya ultimately declined his invitation to State of the Union address

Yulia Navalnaya with husband Alexi Navalny

Yulia Navalnaya with husband Alexi Navalny

But Ukraine has also become embroiled in Washington’s political drama.

House Republicans have yet to vote on a bipartisan security passage — approved by the Senate — that would include $60 billion in aid for the war-torn country.

Ukrainian officials are lobbying Speaker Mike Johnson and his Republican lawmakers to pass the bill, which Donald Trump opposes.

They may not want to offend Republicans by placing their first lady with Jill Biden.

Ukrainian forces are running low on ammunition as they battle Russian forces. During his prime time address, Biden is expected to urge Congress to quickly pass the relief package.

The president has been cagey about what else he will discuss in his State of the Union address.

“You’ll hear me on Thursday,” he said when reporters asked him about his preparations.

The underlying message will be political. Even if Biden doesn’t mention Donald Trump by name, the upcoming rematch between the two men will be an undercurrent of the evening.

Biden is expected to take a more aggressive stance against Trump, who has essentially clinched the Republican nomination.

The president is also expected to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, abortion rights, trade, immigration and China.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska

As for the first lady’s box, the most prominent spot in the House chamber, the White House has announced just one guest: Kate Cox.

The state of Texas denied Cox’s request for an abortion after learning that her fetus had a fatal diagnosis due to a rare chromosomal condition.

Biden and Democrats are using the abortion issue to shore up their base after it was a successful rallying cry for the party in the 2022 midterm elections, where their candidates performed better than expected, largely thanks to abortion rights issues on the ballot .

Kate Cox was the first pregnant adult to sue for the right to terminate her pregnancy after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Ultimately, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Cox would not have qualified for an abortion under the medical exception to the state’s abortion laws.

Abortions were banned in Texas after the Supreme Court ruling in June 2022. Cox traveled out of state to obtain one. Her lawyers noted that Cox’s own health would be at greater risk if she carried the fetus to term.

Donald Trump has has taken credit for the Supreme Court’s decision and has said he is considering a nationwide ban on 15-week abortions.