US House Speaker Declines Invitation from Ukraine’s Zelenskyy
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invited the top House lawmaker in the United States to visit Kyiv to see “what’s happening here” in an interview broadcast Wednesday on TV news channel CNN.
"Mr. (Kevin) McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what's happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions," Zelenskyy told the news outlet through an interpreter.
Responding to CNN, House Speaker McCarthy said, “I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv" to understand it. He said he received information in briefings and other ways.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the U.S. has sent nearly $100 billion in military, economic and relief aid to Ukraine. That aid was sent when President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party controlled both chambers in Congress.
The Republican Party took control of the U.S. House after the midterm elections, and some Republicans have expressed opposition to sending additional arms and financial aid to Ukraine.
McCarthy has said he supports Ukraine but that House Republicans will not provide "a blank check" for additional U.S. assistance to Kyiv without closer scrutiny of how it is being spent.
In the CNN interview, Zelenskyy said, "I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position.”
Many U.S. lawmakers and officials and world leaders have visited Zelenskyy in Kyiv as a show of solidarity, including President Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Guterres calls invasion violation of law
Earlier Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres assailed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of international law as he arrived in Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy.
The two were to discuss extending grain shipments from the war-torn country and securing the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
“The sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be upheld, within its internationally recognized borders,” Guterres said ahead of talks with Zelenskyy.
“Our ultimate objective is equally clear: a just peace based on the U.N. Charter, international law and the recent General Assembly resolution marking one year since the start of the war,” he said.
But with fighting raging and no peace talks on the horizon, Guterres said the U.N. is trying “to mitigate the impacts of the conflict, which has caused enormous suffering for the Ukrainian people — with profound global implications.”
He called for the continuation of Ukrainian grain shipments through the Black Sea with Russian acquiescence. Since July 2022, he said, 23 million tons of grain have been exported from Ukrainian ports, much of it shipped to impoverished countries. Absent a new agreement, the program is set to expire March 18.
Guterres said the grain exports have “contributed to lowering the global cost of food” and offered “critical relief to people, who are also paying a high price for this war, particularly in the developing world. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index has fallen by almost 20% over the last year.”
“Exports of Ukrainian — as well as Russian — food and fertilizers are essential to global food security and food prices,” he said.
Guterres also called for “full demilitarization” of the region around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Europe’s largest — where nearby fighting has periodically shut down the facility and raised fears of a catastrophic nuclear meltdown.
Attempts for months to end fighting in the region have failed, but Guterres said that safety and security near the power plant are vital so that the facility can return to normal operations.
EU defense ministers push for ammunition
Meanwhile, European Union defense ministers gathered Wednesday in Stockholm with a push to provide more ammunition to Ukrainian forces high on their agenda.
Under a plan by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the EU states would get financial incentives worth about $1 billion to send ammunition to Kyiv, while another $1 billion would be spent on procuring new ammunition, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who attended the Stockholm meeting, said Kyiv needed 90,000-100,000 artillery rounds per month, and that Ukraine's military is using the ammunition faster than allies can manufacture them, AFP reported.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday, “There is enormous demand out there. … The current rate of consumption compared to the current rate of production of ammunition is not sustainable and therefore we need to ramp up production.”
Stoltenberg said the conflict is “now a war of attrition.”
He said he could not rule out the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut falling into Russian control in the coming days.
“Therefore, it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war, and it just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia,” Stoltenberg said. “We must continue to provide support to Ukraine.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.