By Vanesa Gera, The Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland — A U.S. congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the courage of the Ukrainian people in remarks during a visit to Poland on Sunday, a day after a surprise trip to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymr Zelenskyy.
The American legislators assessed Ukraine’s needs for the next phase of the war, with Pelosi vowing that Washington would stand with the country until it defeats Russia.
Pelosi, a California Democrat who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, was the most senior American lawmaker to visit Ukraine since Russia’s war began more than two months ago. Her previously unannounced visit came just days after Moscow bombed the Ukrainian capital while the U.N. secretary-general was there.
Pelosi and a half-dozen U.S. lawmakers — including U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Centennial — met for three hours late Saturday with Zelenskyy and his top aides to get a first-hand assessment of the war effort to date. Speaking to reporters Sunday in Poland, the delegation members were unanimous in praising Ukraine’s defenses so far, in painting the battle of one as good against evil and in assuring continued long-term U.S. military, humanitarian and economic support.
“We were proud to convey to him the message of unity from the Congress of the United States, a message of appreciation from the American people for his leadership and admiration for the people of Ukraine for their courage,” Pelosi said.
Their visit came two days after U.S. President Joe Biden asked Congress for $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s fight against Russia, more than twice the size of the initial $13.6 billion aid measure that Congress enacted early last month and now is almost drained. With the war dragging into its third month, the measure was designed to signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that U.S. weaponry and other forms of assistance weren’t going away.
“This is a time we stand up for democracy or we allow autocracy to rule the day,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York.
“This is a struggle of freedom against tyranny,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California. “And in that struggle, Ukraine is on the front lines.”
Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado, a veteran and a member of the House intelligence and armed services committee, said he came to Ukraine with three areas of focus: “Weapons, weapons and weapons.”
“We have to make sure the Ukrainians have what they need to win. What we have seen in the last two months is their ferocity, their intense pride, their ability to fight and their ability to win if they have the support to do so.”
“The United States of America is in this to win, and we will stand with Ukraine until victory is won,” he added.
The full congressional delegation included Meeks, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee; Jim McGovern of Massachusetts who chairs the House Rules Committee; Crow, Barbara Lee of California; and Bill Keating of Massachusetts.
“You all are welcome,” Zelenskyy told the delegation, according to a video of the encounter released by his office.
Pelosi told Zelenskyy: “We believe that we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom.”
“We are on a frontier of freedom and your fight is a fight for everyone. Our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done,” Pelosi added.
The delegation continued its trip in southeast Poland, and members were later visiting the capital, Warsaw, to meet with President Andrzej Duda and other senior officials. Poland has received more than 3 million refugees from Ukraine since Russia launched its war on Feb. 24.
“We look forward to thanking our Polish allies for their dedication and humanitarian efforts,” Pelosi said.
Speaking at a news conference in Poland, Pelosi said she and others in the delegation applauded the courage of the Ukrainian people. She added that the delegation brought Zelenskyy “a message of appreciation from the American people for his leadership.”
McGovern said Russia’s war had repercussions far beyond Ukraine, saying it was exacerbating a food crisis that would be disastrous for poor people across the globe.
“Putin’s brutal war is no longer only a war against the people of Ukraine,” McGovern said. “It’s also a war against the world’s most vulnerable.”
He added that Ukraine is a “breadbasket of the world.”
“I don’t think that Putin cares if he starves the world,” McGovern said.