As fighting in eastern Ukraine took root and around 100 civilians were evacuated from a beleaguered steel mill in Mariupol, a delegation of congressional Democrats traveled to Kyiv as a sign of US commitment to Ukraine's efforts.
"The evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has begun," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter. “Grateful to our team! Now they are working with the #UN to evacuate more civilians from the factory.
The battle for Mariupol, the beleaguered city on Ukraine's southeast coast that Russia sees as a link to Crimea, has come down to the massive Azovstal steelworks, where Ukrainian forces are making a last fight.
Of the thousands of civilians still trapped in the city, around a thousand are believed to be hiding in the steelworks alongside the remaining Ukrainian soldiers in an underground maze of shelters and bunkers. Previous attempts to evacuate civilians were thwarted by Russia, which bombed the factory relentlessly.
Saviano Abreu, spokesman for the UN humanitarian office, told news agencies on Sunday that the operation was "extremely complex", risky and ongoing.
Democrats traveled to the Ukrainian capital on Saturday, Pelosi revealed in a statement early Sunday. There they met with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials for three hours to discuss US support for the war, they said.
Speaking to reporters Sunday in Poland, Pelosi praised Zelenskyy's courage and leadership.
"Our discussion focused on the things to be covered, as you would expect: security, humanitarian aid, economic aid and possibly reconstruction once victory is won," Pelosi said.
The Democrats' visit came two days after President Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in additional aid to Ukraine. The bulk of the package is military aid, both directly to Ukraine and to other countries to help reduce dependence on Russian weaponry. The program would also provide economic aid to the Ukrainian government and $3 billion in humanitarian aid for refugees.
Biden's request is designed to fund Ukraine's war effort through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Tips:- official site About 100 civilians escape Mariupol steel plant as Pelosi visits Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Biden asks Congress for $33 billion in aid for Ukraine as war drags on
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he came to Ukraine with three areas of interest: "guns, guns and guns."
"We have to make sure the Ukrainians have what they need to win," he said. "What we've seen over the past two months is their ferocity, their intense pride, their ability to fight and their ability to win - if they have the backing to do so."
Crow said the new package reflects how the war has changed in recent weeks – from unconventional ambush-type tactics seen in fighting around kyiv to attrition-type hard-fought in more open territory in the south and east. eastern Ukraine.
"The next phase of our support is also starting to look like this. You're starting to see artillery, longer-range fire, more advanced drones, counter-artillery radar systems, things that will help the Ukrainians to better engage at greater ranges to preserve their strength but also reach out further and hit Russian forces,” he said.
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Despite bipartisan support for funding Ukraine, its passage could be delayed. Democrats, led by President Biden, hope to combine it with a new one-vote COVID-19 funding measure, which Republicans have opposed.
"Given that Russia has redoubled its efforts on the battlefield in southern and eastern Ukraine and we expect this fight to be very intense and last for some time, we believe that it's imperative to get this funding through as quickly as possible," Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer said in a Friday interview with NPR.