Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi traveled to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday. Pelosi, who was accompanied on the unannounced symbolic visit by a delegation of several House Democrats, is now the senior-most U.S. official to meet with Zelenskyy in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. The move also came days after Biden asked Congress to authorize another $33 billion in aid for Ukraine, which continues to defend against Russian forces in the country’s south and east.
Foreign aid — military and financial — continues to pour into Ukraine to bolster its defense and help alleviate the humanitarian crisis triggered by the invasion. On Saturday, the Institute for the Study of War concluded in its latest analysis that Russia’s main offensive in eastern Ukraine has stalled, and that its forces “appear increasingly unlikely to achieve any major advances” there. Meanwhile in the Russian-occupied parts of southern Ukraine, Russian forces have been consolidating its control. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that “Russian occupation authorities are swiftly integrating these areas into Russia, appointing collaborationist administrations and introducing Russian documents, education programs and currency.” In the almost entirely Russian-occupied (and largely destroyed) southern city of Mariupol, a small group of Ukrainian troops continue to hold out inside the subterranean Soviet-era bunker system of the Azovstal steelworks, but the facility has been under heavy bombardment for weeks. Over the weekend, a small number of civilians who were sheltering in the plant’s bunkers were finally able to leave the city via evacuation corridors. “We didn’t see the sun for so long,” one of dozens of evacuees told Reuters on Sunday. The evacuation effort is supposed to resume on Monday.
“Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unmistakable and resounding message to the entire world: America stands firmly with Ukraine,” Pelosi said in a statement on Sunday. Speaking with reporters in Poland, she said that the delegation had shared with Zelenskyy a “message of unity from the Congress of the United States” and “appreciation from the American people for his leadership and admiration for the people of Ukraine for their courage.” House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Gregory Meeks, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, and House Rules Committee chair Jim McGovern were also part of the delegation. Zelenskyy announced the meeting after the delegation concluded its roughly three-hour visit and left the country:
Last weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made their own secret trip to Kyiv, where they announced the U.S. would supply hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine and that the U.S. would soon be reestablishing its diplomatic presence in Kyiv. Blinken also later claimed that Russia was failing in its war aims. The prime ministers of the U.K., Spain, and Denmark, as well as E.U. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, have also made trips to Ukraine over the past month.
Last Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres made a much higher-profile visit to Kyiv, and on the same day, Russia conducted missile strikes targeting the capital. One of the missiles struck a 25-story apartment building in the city, killing Ukrainian journalist Vira Hyrych, who worked with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and lived in the building. As NPR reported, since Russia has rarely targeted Kyiv since abandoning its failed effort to take the capital in early April, the timing of the strikes was suspicious, particularly since Guterres had just met with Russian president Vladimir Putin two days prior in Russia. Ukraine said the strikes were a Russian “postcard” meant to humiliate Guterres and the U.N. A U.N. spokesperson said it was “shocking that it happened close to us.”