Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, declined an invitation from the White House on the occasion of the State of the Union address that US President Joe Biden will deliver on Thursday. The Washington Post revealed this, citing officials who said that First Lady Jill Biden wanted to sit next to Volodymyr Zelensky's wife and Yulia Navalnaya, Alexei Navalny's widow. But according to the American newspaper's sources, the possible presence of Navalnaya – who also declined the invitation to speak before the assembled houses of Congress – caused embarrassment to Ukrainians because Kiev would not have forgotten Navalny's old statements about Crimea. “Navalny certainly opposed Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, but in 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, he was largely in line with Russian public opinion that saw Crimea as part of Russia's historic territory,” Alina Polyakova commented. President of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank in Washington.

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According to a White House official, Zelenska's decision was likely due to “overlapping commitments.” There was no comment from Zelenska's office. As for Navalnaya, Kira Yarmysh, who was Alexei Navalny’s spokeswoman for years, explained that “Yulia was invited and considered the idea of ​​going,” but “I think everyone forgets the circumstances of the events” with “her husband, who died two weeks ago,” in prison at the age of 47. She is the one who “has been traveling all this time,” “Today is the first day she has returned home,” and “Like every human being, she needs time to recover.”

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The White House, according to an American official, may not have informed Kiev of Navalnaya’s decision, but in any case – as the American newspaper’s sources say – it was not her presence alone that worried the Ukrainians. The “problem” for Kiev, which insists on more military aid, is that it will be seen as too aligned with Biden. Ukraine, as the newspaper summarizes, does not want to offend Republicans who may return to the White House with Donald Trump, the favorite in the polls. “Ukrainians are very sensitive to our internal political dynamics,” Polyakova’s final analysis.

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