Surprise visit to kyiv, Nancy Pelosi shows the “unequivocal” solidarity of the United States

Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) – Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has expressed the “unequivocal” solidarity of the United States with Ukraine, the day after a surprise visit to Kyiv, announced on Sunday, where she spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In Mariupol, civilians have finally been able to be evacuated from the area of ​​the huge Azovstal industrial complex, in this port city in southeastern Ukraine, almost completely destroyed after weeks of siege and passed under almost complete control. Russian forces.

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“The United States is a leader in strong support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression,” tweeted Mr. Zelensky, who posted a video showing him, flanked by armed guards, welcome Mrs. Pelosi and a congressional delegation in front of the presidency in Kyiv and then meeting with the American delegation.

“Our delegation traveled to kyiv to send an unequivocal and resounding message to the whole world: the United States stands with Ukraine,” according to a statement from the American delegation which then traveled to Poland.

“Additional American support is on the way”, underline the American parliamentarians, assuring that they will “transform President Biden’s strong request for funding into a legislative package”.

President Zelensky, for his part, welcomed the “very important signals” given by the United States and President Joe Biden, including the Lend-Lease (Lend-Lease) program for Ukraine, like the one set up by the United States during the Second World War, in order to provide friendly countries with war material without intervening directly in the conflict.

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This visit comes a week after the trip to kyiv by the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken and the Minister of Defense Lloyd Austin.

During their trip, the two officials announced the gradual return of an American diplomatic presence in Ukraine and additional direct and indirect aid of more than $700 million.

– First civilians extracted from Azovstal –

In the port city of Mariupol, a first group of civilians was extracted overnight from Saturday to Sunday from the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in this city, after intense negotiations.

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All previous attempts to evacuate this area where, according to kyiv, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are buried in underground galleries dating from the Soviet era, had failed.

The Ukrainian Azov battalion, which defends this industrial zone, mentioned “twenty civilians, women and children”. “They have been transferred to an agreed place and we hope that they will be evacuated to Zaporizhia, in the territory controlled by Ukraine,” Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the unit, said in a video on Telegram.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said that two groups of civilians, 25 and 21 people, were able to leave Azovstal on Saturday, after the establishment of a ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian corridor.

According to new satellite images from Maxar Technologies taken on April 29, almost all buildings in Azovstal have been destroyed.

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The total conquest of Mariupol would allow Moscow to link the territories conquered in the south, in particular the Crimean peninsula annexed in 2014, to the pro-Russian separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the east.

It is precisely on this eastern flank that the Russian army, numerically superior to its Ukrainian adversary and better endowed with artillery, is nibbling away at ground, seeking to hold it in a vice from the north and the south in order to complete its hold on the Donbass mining basin.

– “Increase the pressure” –

This is the “second phase” of the “special military operation” launched on February 24 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after the withdrawal of Russian forces from northern Ukraine and the kyiv region, put in failure.

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“It’s not like in 2014, there is not a defined front along an axis”, explains Iryna Rybakova, press officer of the 93rd brigade of the Ukrainian forces, in reference to the war which opposed Kyiv to pro-Russian separatists in this region eight years ago and has never fully ceased.

“It’s a village of their own, a village of ours: you have to visualize a chessboard instead”, continues the soldier. And after two weeks of Russian assault, “we are currently unable to push back the enemy”.

President Zelensky warned on Saturday that the Russians “have formed reinforcements in the Kharkiv region, trying to increase the pressure in Donbass”.

At the same time, a senior Ukrainian military official said on Saturday evening that he informed US Army Chief of Staff Mark A. Milley of “the difficult situation in the east of our country, particularly in the regions of Izium and of Sieverodonetsk, where the enemy has concentrated most of its efforts and its most combat-ready troops”, two towns located roughly in the Kharkiv-Lugansk axis.

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The northeastern districts of Kharkiv, the country’s second city with nearly 1.5 million inhabitants before the war, are hit daily by Russian rockets, causing the death of civilians.

But the situation is sometimes changing: Rouska Lozova, a village of a few thousand inhabitants, located about twenty kilometers from this metropolis, was taken over on Friday by Ukrainian forces after two months under Russian occupation.

“We stayed in the basement without food for two months, we ate what we had,” a 40-year-old resident told AFP, his eyes red with fatigue.

– Johnson wants to “strengthen Ukraine” –

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In southern Ukraine, the airport of Odessa was hit on Saturday by a Russian missile which destroyed the runway, without causing any casualties, announced the governor of the region Maxim Marchenko.

For its part, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have destroyed “a hangar with weapons and ammunition received from the United States and European countries”, as well as the runway.

On the armament side, in the middle of the great hilly plains and industrial cities, the face to face is essentially done with artillery. The balance of power there is extremely favorable to the Russians, up to “five times superior in terms of equipment” according to Iryna Terehovytch, sergeant of the 123rd Ukrainian brigade.

Western support therefore represents a considerable stake, with the United States at the forefront: Joe Biden asked Congress this week for a colossal budget extension of 33 billion dollars mainly to deliver more military aid to kyiv.

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London too is showing its help: “The UK will continue to provide military and humanitarian aid to give the Ukrainians the equipment they need to defend themselves. I am more determined than ever to strengthen Ukraine and ensure that may Putin fail,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Saturday evening.

A little earlier, Emmanuel Macron had told his Ukrainian counterpart on the phone that France was going to “reinforce” its shipments of military equipment to Ukraine – in particular long-range guns – to “restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity”. .

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