Nancy Pelosi meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv, civilians leave Mariupol steel plant : NPR
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Kyiv to meet with Ukraine’s president before heading to Poland for talks with officials.
Pelosi, a California Democrat and second in the presidency after the vice president, is the most senior American leader to visit Ukraine since the start of the war, and her visit marks a big show of continued support for the country’s fight against Russia. .
“Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unequivocal and resounding message to the world: America stands firmly with Ukraine,” Pelosi said in a statement released Sunday.
Footage released by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office shows Pelosi and other US lawmakers in kyiv.
The full congressional delegation included Democratic Representatives Gregory Meeks of New York who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Adam Schiff of California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee; Jim McGovern of Massachusetts who chairs the House Rules Committee; Colorado’s Jason Crow; Barbara Lee from California; and Bill Keating of Massachusetts.
“You are all welcome,” Zelenskyy told the delegation.
Pelosi told Zelenskyy, “We believe we are visiting you to thank you for your fight for freedom.”
“We are on the frontier of freedom and your fight is everyone’s fight. Our commitment is to be here for you until the fight is over,” Pelosi added.
The visit had not been previously announced.
Pelosi said the delegation would continue its trip to southeastern Poland and the capital, Warsaw, to meet President Andrzej Duda and other senior officials. Poland has taken in more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees since Russia launched its war on February 24.
“We look forward to thanking our Polish allies for their dedication and humanitarian efforts,” she said.
Earlier, women and children had been evacuated from a steelworks that is the last defensive stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of the port city of Mariupol, a Ukrainian official and Russian state news agencies said, but hundreds are believed to be trapped with little food, water or medicine.
The United Nations was working to negotiate an evacuation of the roughly 1,000 civilians living under the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal factory after many previous attempts had failed. Ukraine did not say how many fighters were also in the factory, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces, but Russia put the number at around 2,000. About 100,000 civilians remain in the city.
UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the world organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kyiv, but could not provide details on the ongoing evacuation effort. due to the complexity and fluidity of the operation”.
“There are, right now, high-level engagements going on with all governments, Russia and Ukraine, to make sure you can save civilians and support the evacuation of civilians from the plant.” , Abreu told the AP. He did not confirm video posted on social media allegedly showing UN-registered vehicles in Mariupol.
Ukraine has blamed the failure of many previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.
In the town of Lyman in the Donetsk region, where at least half the population fled Russian bombardment, around 20 elderly people and children holding bags with their dogs and cats boarded a van marked with a sign that reads “evacuation of children” in Ukrainian. . It sped towards the town of Dnipro as explosions were heard in the distance.
“The liberators came and freed us from what? Of our lives? said Nina Mihaylenko, a professor of Russian language and literature, referring to Russian forces.
Galina Zuev and her husband Aleksander chose to stay, not wanting to leave the place where they had spent their whole lives.
“I don’t live very well. There is a war here. They are bombing all the time. The windows were smashed in our house. The missiles are in the courtyards,” Galina, 68, said. “It’s scary.”
Russian forces have embarked on a major military operation to seize significant parts of southern and eastern Ukraine, the country’s industrial heartland. Ukrainian forces fought village by village on Saturday to halt the Russian advance.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti said on Saturday that 19 adults and six children had been taken out of the steelworks, but did not give further details.
A senior official from the Azov regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the plant, said 20 civilians had been evacuated during a ceasefire, although it was unclear whether he was referring to the same group. There was no confirmation from the UN
“They are women and children,” Sviatoslav Palamar said in a video posted on the regiment’s Telegram channel. He also called for the evacuation of the wounded: “We don’t know why they are not taken away and their evacuation to Ukrainian-controlled territory is not discussed.”
Video and footage from inside the factory, shared with The Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands were among the fighters refusing to go there, showed unidentified men with bandages tasks ; others had open wounds or amputated limbs.
Skeletal medical personnel were treating at least 600 wounded, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Ukrainian National Guard’s Azov regiment. Some of the wounds were rotting with gangrene, they said.
In the video, the men said they only ate once a day and shared only 1.5 liters (50 ounces) of water a day between four people, and that the stores inside the besieged installation were exhausted.
A shirtless man appeared to be in pain as he described his injuries: two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated arm that was “hanging from the flesh”.
“I want to say to everyone who sees this: if you don’t stop it here, in Ukraine, it will go further, in Europe,” he said.
The AP could not independently verify the date and location of the video, which the women say was taken last week in the maze of hallways and bunkers beneath the factory.
The women urged that Ukrainian fighters also be evacuated alongside civilians, warning that they could be tortured and executed if captured. “Soldiers’ lives matter too,” Yuliia Fedusiuk told the AP in Rome.
In his nightly video address on Saturday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy turned to Russian to urge Russian troops not to fight in Ukraine, saying even their generals expect thousands of them to die.
The president accused Moscow of recruiting new soldiers “with little motivation and little combat experience” so that units emptied at the start of the war could be sent back to battle.
“Every Russian soldier can still save his own life,” Zelenskyy said. “It is better for you to survive in Russia than to perish on our land.”