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Monday, May 20, 2024

Pelosi makes unannounced trip to meet with Zelensky in Kyiv

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital on Saturday, becoming the most senior United States official to meet with President Volodymr Zelensky since the war broke out more than two months ago.
Pelosi's office confirmed the trip in a statement on Sunday, saying that the Speaker had led an official congressional delegation to Ukraine -- the first amid Russia's invasion.

Zelensky shared a video on Sunday of their meeting in Kyiv, and thanked the US for its powerful support of Ukraine against Russian aggression.

"We are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom, that we're on a frontier of freedom and that your fight is a fight for everyone," Pelosi said to Zelensky in the clip. "And so our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done."

Her visit comes as the US and its allies are stepping up to provide long-term support to Ukraine as the fighting rages on.

Last week, responding to pleas from Zelensky, a group of 40 nations gathered by the US in Germany agreed to streamline and expedite the delivery of weapons to Ukraine. "We've got to move at the speed of war," said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who met with Ukraine's president in Kyiv with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week.

The House on Thursday passed legislation that would allow Biden to use a World War II-era law, known as the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, to swiftly supply weapons to Ukraine on loan. That law was originally created to help forces fighting Hitler, and reflects the urgency in Congress to support the Ukrainian armed forces.

President Joe Biden also asked Congress for a $33 billion supplemental funding bill to aid Ukraine over the next several months as Russia's brutal and unrelenting war enters a new phase. Biden also outlined a proposal that would further pressure Russian oligarchs over the war in Ukraine, including using money from their seized assets to fund Ukraine's defense.

The package is significantly larger than the other packages that have been put forward, and is more than twice as much as the $13.6 billion infusion of military and humanitarian aid that Congress approved last month.

Zelensky stressed the importance of the financial assistance in his meeting with Pelosi. "The signals that the United States and President Biden are giving today are very important. These are recent strong steps in defense and financial support for Ukraine, as well as decisions on Lend-Lease - we are grateful for that," Zelensky said.

The trip to Kyiv by Pelosi, who is second in line to succeed the president, marks a significant measure of commitment to supporting Ukraine from the most senior level of US leadership.

"Our Congressional Delegation had the solemn opportunity and extraordinary honor of meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top Ukrainian officials in Kyiv," according to the news release from Pelosi's office.

"Our delegation conveyed our respect and gratitude to President Zelenskyy for his leadership and our admiration of the Ukrainian people for their courage in the fight against Russia's oppression."

Zelensky awarded Pelosi with "the Order of Princess Olga" for her "significant personal contribution" to strengthening Ukrainian and American ties. Olga was the first woman to rule Kievan Rus, a medieval East Slavic state. The order bearing her name is awarded to women who have achieved significant success in politics and society -- the personification in Ukraine of female strength.

He also gave Pelosi a Ukrainian flag that he and female members of parliament, including those she met with at the US Capitol recently, had signed, according to Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill.

Pelosi was joined by several other senior members of Congress, including Gregory Meeks of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

The delegation spent just over three hours on the ground in Kyiv, Pelosi's spokesman, Drew Hammill, said. The US politicians are now in Poland, where they are due to meet with President Andrzej Duda and other senior officials.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Rzeszow, Poland on Sunday, Pelosi said that her discussions with Zelensky centered around security, humanitarian and economic assistance, and eventually rebuilding Ukraine.

"We were proud to convey to him a message of unity from the Congress of the US. A message of appreciation from the American people for his leadership and admiration to the people of Ukraine for their courage," Pelosi said.
"America stands with Ukraine, we stand with Ukraine until victory is won, and we stand with NATO."
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