The Hill: Bipartisan House delegation meets with Zelensky in Kyiv

A bipartisan House delegation met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv on Saturday as the country’s war with Russia approaches the five-month mark.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a statement along with the four other members of the delegation that they saw firsthand during their visit how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has failed to achieve its goals. The other members of the delegation are Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). 

Facing stiff Ukrainian resistance to its invasion, Russia failed to take control of Kyiv in the early weeks of the conflict and has lost roughly 15,000 soldiers in nearly 5 months of fighting, the director of the CIA estimated this week. Moscow has also drawn condemnation from international bodies and leaders around the world over its actions in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden have moved to join NATO in response to the war, with the military alliance officially inviting both countries to join late last month.

“Putin’s aggression has brought Ukraine and the other democracies of Europe closer together, not driven them apart,” the lawmakers said. “His contempt for the rules-based international order has resulted in devastating isolation for the Russian economy and renewed purpose for the NATO alliance.” 

The delegation members said the war has “violently disrupted” the lives of Ukrainian civilians and that they saw evidence of Russian atrocities in Irpin and Bucha, two cities in the province surrounding Kyiv. 

Throughout the war, Russia has been accused of committing war crimes as soldiers have been documented targeting civilians and civilian buildings, kidnapping Ukrainians and raping women. Ukraine has pushed to hold Russia accountable for its actions in the war in the International Court of Justice for violating international law. 

“Four months since Vladimir Putin’s unlawful further invasion began, President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine continue to inspire the world with their courageous fight for their freedom, sovereignty, and democracy,” the delegation said. 

The lawmakers said they will continue to seek ways to help Zelensky and the Ukrainian people as effectively as they can as they “continue their brave stand.”

Zelensky said in a Telegram message about the meeting that he is grateful for the $270 million security assistance package that President Biden announced for Ukraine on Friday. 

The package includes four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and hundreds of tactical drones. About a third of the funding will go toward contracting up to 580 Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems. 

Zelensky said Ukrainian forces especially need the HIMARS, shells and unmanned aerial vehicles. 

“We appreciate the help of the United States in defending our territory, our land and the Ukrainian people,” he said. 

The Ukrainian president’s office said in a statement that Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is leading the delegation. 

The office said that Zelensky briefed the members of the delegation on the missile strikes that Russia launched against Ukraine in the past day, specifically targeting the port of Odessa. The city announced that four missiles were launched toward the port, but two were shot down before impact. 

Zelensky noted that this happened just one day after Russia and Ukraine agreed to allow Ukraine to export grain internationally through its ports to address global food shortages. 

“This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” he said. “Geopolitically, with weapons, bloodily or not, but it has several vectors, as it always acts.” 

Zelensky also told the delegation about the planned reconstruction of Ukraine after the war ends, according to the statement. He said the first step is implementing the Fast Recovery Plan, which would focus on quickly restoring destroyed residential, educational and medical infrastructure. 

“We appeal to our partners, in particular the United States, with a proposal to take an active part in the implementation of this ambitious but extremely important project,” he said.