US President Pelosi visits Ukrainian capital

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv to vow continued support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia, as Moscow says it hit weapons supplied by western countries in the south of the country.

Footage posted by Zelenskiy to Twitter on Sunday showed him, flanked by an armed escort and dressed in military fatigues, greeting a congressional delegation led by Pelosi outside his presidential office the day before.

“Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unequivocal and resounding message to the world: America stands firmly with Ukraine,” said Pelosi, the most senior US official to visit Ukraine. since the Russian invasion on February 24, in a press release. She condemned the “diabolical invasion” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say that Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Western countries have imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia and shipped increasing amounts of weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.

Pelosi said on Friday she hoped to pass a $33 billion (A$47 billion) aid package for Ukraine that President Joe Biden has requested “as soon as possible.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday it carried out a missile strike on a military airfield near the port city of Odessa, destroying a runway and a hangar containing weapons and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by the United States. and European countries.

On Saturday, Ukraine said Russian missiles destroyed a newly constructed runway at Odessa’s main airport.

It was unclear whether they were referring to the same incident and Reuters could not immediately verify the information.

Moscow has focused on southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to capture kyiv in the first weeks of a war that has destroyed cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than five million people to flee the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of bombing a school, kindergarten and cemetery in villages in the occupied Kherson region, Russian news agency RIA reported on Sunday.

The ministry said civilians were killed and injured, but gave no further details. There was no immediate response from Ukraine and Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Russian forces captured the city of Kherson, 100 km north of Russia-annexed Crimea, in March and since then have mainly occupied Mariupol, a strategic eastern port city on the Sea of ​​Azov.

The Ukrainian army said in a bulletin on Sunday that Russian forces were fighting to cross the administrative borders of Kherson and prepare the way for attacks on the cities of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih.

In Mariupol, Russia declared victory on April 21 even as hundreds of resisting Ukrainian soldiers and civilians took refuge in the bombed steel mills of Azovstal, where they were trapped with little food, water or medications.

On Saturday, a Ukrainian fighter inside said 20 women and children walked out of the sprawling factory.

“We pull civilians out of the rubble with ropes – they are old people, women and children,” said the fighter, Svyatoslav Palamar.

Palamar said Russia and Ukraine are respecting a local ceasefire.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that 46 civilians had left the area around the steelworks the day before.

Addressing thousands in St. Peter’s Square for his midday blessing on Sunday, Pope Francis said Mariupol had been “barbarically bombed and destroyed” in a war he called a “macabre regression of the ‘humanity”.

To the east, Moscow is pushing for full control of the Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Lugansk and Donetsk provinces before the invasion.

Despite weeks of peace talks, the two sides seemed more distant than ever on Saturday.

Ukraine accuses Russian troops of carrying out atrocities in areas near kyiv from which they have since been repelled in early April, a claim denied by Moscow. The negotiators last met in person on March 29 and have since spoken via video link.

Christi C. Elwood