Pelosi makes unannounced trip to Kyiv, becoming highest-ranking US official to meet with Zelensky since the war began – CNN

CNN  — 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Saturday, becoming the most senior US official to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky since the war broke out more than two months ago.

Pelosi’s office confirmed the trip in a statement 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.

In the clip, Pelosi is seen telling Zelensky, “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. And so our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done.”

Pelosi was joined by several other senior House members on the trip, including Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence panel, and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who leads the House Rules Committee. Reps. Bill Keating of Massachusetts, Barbara Lee of California and Jason Crow of Colorado were also part of the delegation, according to Pelosi’s office.

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

‘Speed of war’

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 Zelensky in Kyiv last week along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The US House of Representatives 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 Nazi Germany 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 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,” he said.

Biden was asked by reporters Sunday at the South Lawn of the White House if he had spoken to Pelosi.

“Not since she’s landed,” Biden said, before boarding Marine One for a trip to Minneapolis to attend a memorial service for the late Vice President Walter Mondale.

Strong signal of support

The trip to Kyiv by Pelosi, who is second in line to succeed the president as speaker of the US House, 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,” read a 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.

Zelensky also gave Pelosi a Ukrainian flag signed by him and female members of the Ukrainian Parliament, including those she had met with at the US Capitol recently, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

The congressional delegation spent just over three hours on the ground in Kyiv, Hammill said. The lawmakers later landed in Poland, where they were 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,” she said.

“America stands with Ukraine, we stand with Ukraine until victory is won, and we stand with NATO.”

CNN’s Sarita Harilela and Sophie Jeong in Hong Kong and Daniella Diaz, Mikayla Bouchard and Donald Judd in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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