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A bipartisan delegation of House Representatives led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) traveled to Poland over the weekend where they met with allies and refugees amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, McCarthy’s office announced early Sunday.
The group of seven Republicans and two Democrats spoke face-to-face with members of the U.S. Army stationed in the country, as well as top Warsaw officials including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
McCarthy warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the ‘world is watching’ his attack on Ukraine and hailed Poland as an ‘indispensable’ ally in a statement released just over three hours after midnight on Sunday, Eastern Time.
‘The whole world is watching what’s unfolding in Ukraine. We see the atrocities being committed by Vladimir Putin, and more importantly, we see the bravery of the Ukrainian people,’ the California Republican said.
‘We are here—as representatives of the United States—to ensure we are doing what is right to support Ukrainians as they defend themselves and their democracy.’
He ended the impassioned comments by calling the American visit a ‘powerful message’ to Moscow’s autocratic regime.
‘Poland has been an indispensable strategic partner by accepting millions of refugees, working closely with our military forces, and contributing fully to NATO as we all aim to restore peace and prosperity to the region,’ McCarthy continued.
‘Our visit today should serve as a powerful message to Putin that we condemn his unprovoked attacks. Evil cannot win.’
McCarthy said he met with Ukrainian officials while in Poland who he said told him, ‘We can fight the war ourselves; we just need better weapons to do it’
While meeting with Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, McCarthy said he and two other members of Congress spoke with a man who temporarily crossed the border to Poland to find urgent veterinary care for his dog
He also personally thanked US service members, including those from California, for their efforts supporting NATO
The delegation was made up of seven House Republicans and two House Democrats
They appear to have arrived in Europe barely a day after Ukrainian officials say a Russian rocket attack killed at least 50 people and injured potentially hundreds more at a civilian railway station.
The train station in Kramatorsk, a large transit hub in eastern Ukraine, was packed with 4,000 people — mostly women, children and the elderly — trying to save themselves by fleeing the war, the town’s mayor said.
Speaking to NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the attack was ‘horrendous’ but that it would not prevent him from trying to seek an end to the conflict with Russian officials.
‘If sitting down with the Russians will help me to prevent at least one massacre like in Bucha, or at least another attack like in Kramatorsk, I have to take that opportunity. Whatever I feel, if I have the chance to save a human life or a village, a town from destruction, I will take that chance,’ Kuleba said.
The group of American lawmakers follows a string of western and central European leaders visiting the region this weekend — though most went directly to Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv via train on Saturday, where he was filmed walking through the streets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and receiving thanks from locals.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has travelled to Kyiv to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky in an unannounced visit. A picture shared by the Embassy of Ukraine to the UK on Twitter showed the pair sitting across a table in the country’s capital, with their respective flags in the room
Johnson’s visit was meant to be kept secret until he had left the war zone, but Ukraine’s embassy in the United Kingdom accidentally broke the news on Twitter with a picture of the two leaders seated across from each other in the ravaged nation’s capital.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer traveled to Kyiv for a one-day visit earlier on Saturday.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen was in Ukraine on Friday, where she was taken to Bucha to see the massive scale of atrocities against civilian residents there.
Von der Leyen, who was reportedly moved by the devastation, said a decision on Ukraine’s European Union membership could come in ‘a matter of weeks’ rather than years.
The leaders of Slovenia, Poland and the Czech Republic also visited Kyiv in recent days.
President Joe Biden was in Warsaw, Poland last month when he was so moved by Ukrainian refugees’ stories that he later gave an impassioned speech where he said of Putin, ‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.’
On their trip over the weekend, McCarthy said American lawmakers were welcomed by U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski at the embassy in Warsaw.
A woman stands with bags and suitcases as refugees from Ukraine wait for the bus after they crossed Ukrainian-Polish border at the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland on April 8
Ukrainian refugee Elena, left, hugs her five-year old granddaughter Christina, as they wait for the train to Warsaw
They then visited with the Polish defense minister at his residence in the national capital, before McCarthy personally met with and thanked American service members from his home state of California.
Lawmakers shared lunch with members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division who are stationed in southeast Poland as part of President Joe Biden’s effort to support NATO countries in the region.
On Sunday, however, Defense Minister Kuleba took aim at countries that have prevented Ukraine from joining NATO in the first place, claiming his nation was now ‘paying the price’ for the West’s delay.
‘f we were a member of NATO, this war wouldn’t take place. The strategic mistake that was made in 2008 by Germany and France, who rejected the efforts of the United States and other allies to bring Ukraine in, is something that we are paying for,’ Kuleba said.
While meeting with Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, McCarthy said he and two other members of Congress spoke with a man who temporarily crossed the border to Poland to find urgent veterinary care for his dog.
McCarthy also said he asked Ukraine’s officials what more they need from the United States.
‘They were clear in their response: we can fight the war ourselves; we just need better weapons to do it,’ the Congressional announcement read.
Republicans accompanying McCarthy on the delegation are GOP Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), Rep. Kevin Calvert (R-Calif.), Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), and Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.)
The lone Democrats on the trip are Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.).
Russia’s war, ongoing for more than 40 days, took a devastating turn in recent weeks as images of what Moscow’s troops have left behind in Kyiv suburbs like Bucha shock the world.
Civilians lying dead in the street, some with hands behind their backs, some burned and some showing signs of sexual violence, have spurred outrage throughout the western world and renewed leaders’ calls to try Putin and his troops for war crimes.
Ukrainian officials have been working on exhuming shallow mass graves where bodies appear to have been indiscriminately dumped.
The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of staging the scenes with crisis actors in order to discredit Russia.
Moscow denied responsibility for the deadly missile strike on Kramatorsk as well, calling it the allegations ‘a provocation’ that ‘absolutely do not correspond to reality.’