Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska has met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken as she began a series of high-profile appearances in Washington that will include a session with US counterpart Jill Biden.
Blue and yellow Ukrainian flags flew alongside American ones on Pennsylvania Avenue as Ms Zelenska headed for her first announced event in the United States, the meeting with Mr Blinken.
The State Department announced and then cancelled a planned brief appearance by Mr Blinken and Ms Zelenska before photographers there.
The low-key arrival reflects that Ms Zelenska is not traveling as an official representative of the government of her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky.
MS Zelenska studied architecture in college but worked as a comedy scriptwriter, including for Mr Zelensky, who was a comedian with a popular television show before winning the presidency in 2019.
During the war, Mr Zelensky has won admiration from Ukrainians and Ukraine’s supporters abroad by staying put in the capital, Kyiv, after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine in February.
Ms Zelenska largely disappeared with the couple’s two children during the first months after the invasion.
In an interview with Time magazine this month, she described the war forcing her to shelter away from Mr Zelensky for security reasons from the first hours of Russia’s bombing.
Their children, like other Ukrainians, largely have seen Mr Zelensky since then in nightly video addresses he makes to the country.
Ms Zelenska emerged from seclusion on May 8 to greet Ms Biden, who was making an unannounced visit to western Ukraine.
The two first ladies met then at a school, where they hugged, talked, and joined schoolchildren making tissue-paper bears as gifts for Mother’s Day.
Ms Zelenska has taken a higher public profile since that meeting. That includes giving more newspaper interviews about Ukraine’s struggles and about her projects during the conflict.
She has promoted counselling for the millions of Ukrainians now dealing with grief and trauma.
She meets with Ms Biden on Tuesday and will speak in the congressional auditorium at the Capitol to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Her husband received standing ovations from congressional members in a video address to lawmakers in the same auditorium earlier in the war.