A day after many of them spoke with Ukraine’s president, U.S. lawmakers are pledging to provide additional military aid to Kyiv as the government there continues to fight for its survival amid the invasion by Russia.
The administration of President Joe Biden has requested $10 billion in humanitarian, military and economic support for Ukraine.
“The Congress intends to enact this emergency funding this week as part of our omnibus government funding legislation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Sunday evening letter to fellow Democrats.
Despite generally bipartisan and robust support for Kyiv, members of Congress are drawing the line at another Ukrainian request: a no-fly zone for the country’s airspace to deter Russian aerial attacks.
That would mean “World War III,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told ABC’s “This Week” program Sunday. “I think there are a lot of things we can do to help Ukraine protect itself… but I think people need to understand what a no-fly zone means.”
Another senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, expressed a less strict stance.
“I would take nothing off the table,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, commented on Fox News: “If I were President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy, I would be asking for a no-fly zone. The problem is, there is no such thing as a no-fly zone over Ukraine.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is in regular contact with his Ukrainian counterpart, Zelenskyy, about Ukraine’s request for more fighter jets, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Yes, we’re talking very actively about this, looking at what we could do to backfill Poland, if it chooses to send the MiGs and the SU planes that it has to Ukraine, how we can help by backfilling what they’re giving to the Ukrainians,” Blinken, in Moldova, told “Meet the Press.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, renewed her nation’s appeal for the United States to provide it with anti-aircraft weapons and other military aid, saying, “We should treat Russia as a terrorist state.”
Zelenskyy said Russia is planning to bombard the port city of Odesa. Zelenskyy said in a televised statement Sunday that if that occurs, it “will be a war crime … a historic crime.”
Zelenskyy spoke in Russian for part of the statement, urging Russians to choose between life and slavery in “the time when it is still possible to defeat evil without irreparable losses.”
A third round of negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow are scheduled to take place on Monday.
Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamiya announced the talks on Facebook on Saturday. Ukrainian and Russian delegations have met twice in Belarus since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but cease-fires agreed to during those talks to allow civilians to flee have failed to hold.
The United States has “seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime,” Blinken told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “We’ve seen very credible reports about the use of certain weapons.”
There must be an investigation into whether Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a CNN interview Sunday.
“Putin must be tried for war crimes — and I urge my colleagues to support my resolution to hold him accountable for the crimes he’s committed against humanity,” tweeted Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York, a Democrat. “History will remember.”
“We assess that the Russians have now committed inside Ukraine somewhere near 95% of the combat power they had amassed along the border,” a senior U.S. defense official said on Sunday. “As of today, we assess that approximately 600 Russian missile launches have occurred since the invasion began.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday contended his military campaign in Ukraine was proceeding as planned and will not end until the Ukrainians stop fighting.
In a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appealed for a cease-fire, Putin expressed readiness for dialogue with Ukraine and foreign partners but any attempt to draw out negotiations would fail, according to a Kremlin statement.
Putin’s remarks came as efforts at an evacuation effort for the bombarded port city of Mariupol failed for a second consecutive day.
“Amid devastating scenes of human suffering in Mariupol, a second attempt today to start evacuating an estimated 200,000 people out of the city came to a halt. The failed attempts yesterday and today underscore the absence of a detailed and functioning agreement between the parties to the conflict,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross in a statement.
Pope Francis made his strongest statement yet on Sunday about the conflict.
“In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing. This is not just a military operation but a war which sows death, destruction and misery,” the pontiff said in his weekly address to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Along with its European partners, Washington is considering a ban on Russian oil, confirmed the U.S. secretary of state.
“We are now in very active discussions with our European partners about banning the import of Russian oil to our countries, while of course, at the same time, maintaining a steady global supply of oil,” Blinken said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Some lawmakers want the White House to do more to increase domestic production as oil prices surge and Americans pay more to fuel their vehicles.
U.S. gasoline prices jumped 11% over the past week to the highest since 2008, according to AAA.
“President Biden would rather import oil from our adversaries in Russia, Iran and Venezuela than increase U.S. energy production at home,” tweeted Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina, a Republican, saying the energy security for the country equates to national security.
Meanwhile, another social media platform announced restrictions on Russia-related content.
TikTok, known for short user-generated videos, said Sunday that it is blocking users in Russia from posting new content.
“In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” read a tweet Sunday from TikTok’s communications team.
An increasing number of corporate entities, including financial services, energy and technology companies, has cut ties to Russia in response to economic sanctions and outrage since the invasion of Ukraine.
VOA State Department Bureau chief Nike Ching, National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin, Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb, Istanbul foreign correspondent Heather Murdock, White House correspondent Anita Powell and senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine contributed to this report.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.