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U.S. congressional delegations meets with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv


We learned this morning that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a small group of Democratic House members on a secret trip to Ukraine's capital city Kyiv yesterday to show support for Ukraine and to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Speaker Pelosi committed to, quote, "be there for you until the fight is done," unquote. Traveling with Speaker Pelosi was Congressman Jason Crow from Colorado. He serves on both the House Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. He is also a U.S. Army veteran, and he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Congressman Crow is with us now from Poland. Congressman, thank you so much for being here with us.

JASON CROW: Hi, Michel. Good to be with you.

MARTIN: So to begin, without asking you to reveal any classified information, what can you tell us about your discussions with President Zelenskyy?

CROW: Well, it was a long journey getting into Ukraine. Needless to say, United Airlines is not flying in there right now. We kept it secret for security reasons. But we had a very long discussion with President Zelenskyy. We met with him for over three hours. We talked about weapons issues, the current state of the battle in the south and the east, what weapons and equipment that they need to win. We talked about sanctions and what the next evolution of sanctions would be. And we also talked about humanitarian aid, the state of not just humanitarian issues and the crisis within Ukraine and Europe but also the famine and the hunger that could result worldwide, particularly in Africa and the Middle East if Ukraine is not able to break the Russian blockade of agricultural exports out of the Black Sea.

MARTIN: So you've been focused on getting Ukraine some of the supplies that it needs to fight this war. A month ago, you and two of your colleagues wrote a bipartisan letter to the White House asking them to send more resources. And after this meeting, after what you've seen in Kyiv, after you traveled through the country to the degree that you've been able to, do you think there's more the U.S. should be doing to support Ukraine?

CROW: Well, I think there is more that we should be doing, and, in fact, the Biden administration proposed doing it. Their $33 billion aid package request that they submitted to Congress last week is historic. It is a significant request, and it's a request that made it very clear that the United States and President Biden and this administration are in it to win it. And if we are able to draft this bill rapidly and pass this bill out of Congress, I think that this bill provides the funding and support that's necessary to help the Ukrainians win. And we - what we have to make sure is that those numbers actually do add up to the actual weapons systems that are needed. And we spoke specifically with President Zelenskyy and his senior advisers as to what are those specific weapons that are needed to help the Ukrainians repel the Russian invasion, break the naval blockade and, ultimately, help them expel the Russians from Ukraine and make sure that they can never invade again.

MARTIN: Now, obviously, you're there, and your colleagues are back home, but do you have a sense of whether this package - whether your colleagues will be receptive to this package?

CROW: I think they will. I think there remains a very broad base, bipartisan support within Congress on this because people understand that this is not just a fight for Ukrainian freedom and democracy. This is a fight for world freedom and democracy, and this is a fight against hunger and starvation. The war that Vladimir Putin is waging against Ukraine is not just a war against Ukraine. This is a war against the world's most vulnerable. And if Ukraine doesn't win this, then we are talking about hunger and starvation in vast parts of the world because Ukraine is the breadbasket of many parts of the world. But also look at the war crimes that are being committed - the systematic rape, killing, the executions, the carpet-bombing, the rocket attacks on civilian areas. The world and United States cannot and will not stand by and allow this to happen.

MARTIN: Well, speaking of bipartisanship, Congressman, I was just wondering why it is that this particular group is all Democrats. I mean, I recognize that many of you on this group have specific expertise and specific responsibilities, committee chairs, etc. But I am wondering why it is that no Republicans were invited to join, given that, as you said, that this is - should be an issue of national concern which goes beyond partisanship. Do you know?

CROW: Yeah. The speaker did invite Republicans, and they were unable to join, unfortunately. But, you know, this has been a very bipartisan effort. There was an attempt to make this trip bipartisan. Obviously, the committee chairs were important to bring along for obvious reasons. I've led a number of the efforts to make sure that the weapons and the aid packages are appropriate, given my background. Unfortunately, the Republicans were not able to join us this round.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, we have about a minute left. I mentioned that you're currently in Poland. I believe you're expected to meet with President Duda there. How concerned are people there about Russian expansion beyond Ukraine and into Poland?

CROW: They're very concerned here, and they should be. I mean, Poland is a place that - where some of the world's greatest crimes have been committed against humanity. You know, so much of the Holocaust happened here. This is a part of their history. And you have the situation where, actually, the sons and daughters of people that survived the Holocaust are actually rising up right now to prevent the Ukrainians from befalling a terrible fate at the hands of Russia. So this is a part of their history. This is a part of their ethic. They have done remarkable work here. You have - in Warsaw right now, their population has increased almost 25% in the last seven weeks by people opening up their doors. They're opening up their hearts. They're doing what's necessary to stand by their neighbors.

MARTIN: That was Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado speaking to us from Poland, where he's traveling with a group of House Democrats who recently visited Ukraine. Congressman, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

CROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.