President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought to shore up US support for Ukraine during a whirlwind visit to Washington.

Ukraine’s leader delivered an upbeat message on the war’s progress while facing new questions about the flow of American dollars that for 19 months has helped keep his troops in the fight against Russian forces.

Mr Zelensky received a far quieter reception than the hero’s welcome he got last year but also won generally favourable comments on the aid he says he needs to stave off defeat.

His arrival was treated with more pomp at the White House, where a red carpet arrival on the South Lawn, followed by time in the Oval Office, an expanded gathering in the East Room and one-on-one time for the two first ladies, was a grander reception than world leaders typically get.

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President Joe Biden and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensk walk to the Oval Office (Evan Vucci/AP)

Mr Zelenskyy, in long-sleeve military gear, came to the Capitol with a firm message in private talks with Republican and Democratic leaders.

The Ukrainians have a solid war plan, and “they are winning”, lawmakers quoted him as assuring them, at a time that the world is watching Western support for Kyiv.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed Mr Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, later at the White House, where Mr Zelensky described thanking members of Congress for their “big, huge support”.

“The American people are determined to see to it that we do all we can to ensure the world stands with you,” Mr Biden assured Mr Zelensky, projecting White House support of Ukraine to other nations as well. “That is our overwhelming objective.”

The serious tone was evident earlier, too, at the Pentagon, where Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin greeted Mr Zelensky without the usual ceremonial band and other fanfare.

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Secretary of defence Lloyd Austin greets Ukraine’s leader at the Pentagon (Andrew Harnik/AP)

At the Capitol, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who faces opposition among far-right Republicans aligned with former president Donald Trump on support for Ukraine, notably chose not to join House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries in greeting the Ukrainian president when he arrived.

Mr McCarthy also confirmed that he declined Mr Zelensky’s request for a joint session of Congress, as happened during the Ukrainian president’s dramatic visit to Washington last winter, saying there was not time for that on short notice.

But Mr McCarthy praised the answers that Ukrainians delivered to lawmakers on Thursday.

“It was direct, I thought it was honest, they were answering the questions,” Mr McCarthy said. “I heard a lot of positive things.”

Republican House lawmakers described questioning Mr Zelensky on the way forward for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, as the fight to roll back invading Russian forces moves closer to the two-year mark without major breakthroughs in Russia’s heavily mined lines.

Mr Zelensky “conceded that it’s tough, very tough to overcome entrenched defences,” Independent senator Angus King said. “They believe they will make slow but steady progress, but it’s not going to be quick.”

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Mr Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Mr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska on the South Lawn of the White House (Susan Walsh/AP)

It is Mr Zelenskyy’s second visit to Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and comes as Mr Biden’s request to Congress for an additional 24 billion dollars for Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs is hanging in the balance.

Back home, Russian launched its heaviest strikes in a month in the hours before Zelenskyy’s arrival at Congress, killing three, igniting fires and damaging energy infrastructure as Russian missiles and artillery pounded cities across Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky, in his White House visit, stressed Ukraine’s need for strengthened air defence systems to fend off Russian missiles and drones.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan underscored on Thursday that Mr Biden would seek to drive home with Mr Zelensky’s visit that the US and the world “send the unmistakable message that in the 21st century, a dictator cannot be allowed to conquer or carve up his neighbour’s territory”.

“If we allow that here, it will happen elsewhere in ways that will undermine the fundamental security, not to mention the values that the American people hold so dear,” Mr Sullivan said.

Mr Biden has called on world leaders to stand strong with Ukraine, even as he faces domestic political divisions at home. A hard-right flank of Republicans, led by Mr Trump, Mr Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race for the White House, is increasingly opposed to sending more money overseas.