White House official tells Ukraine US aid will come

Firefighters tackle a blaze at the site of a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 20, 2024. [AP Photo]

Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Wednesday to reassure Ukrainians that the United States continued to support Ukraine and that despite a delay in Congress, billions in aid would get to the country.

"We will get a strong bipartisan vote in Congress," Sullivan said during a press conference, calling it Plan A.

"We will get that money to you as we should, so I don't think we need to speak about Plan B today." He also acknowledged that the process had "taken too long."

Sullivan met with Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff. They talked about what Ukraine needs on the battlefield and two upcoming summits: the NATO summit in July in Washington and a peace summit in Switzerland that is not yet scheduled but may happen this spring. Yermak said that China, an ally of Russia, could attend, but Ukraine will not invite Russia.

Missile strike

Meanwhile, a Russian missile attack Wednesday killed at least five people and wounded eight more in an industrial area in Ukraine’s northern city of Kharkiv, local authorities reported. Five others were missing, the city’s mayor said.

The blast also set off a major fire at a printing facility in Ukraine’s second-largest city.

The Kharkiv region, which borders Russia to the north and lies close to the front line, has sustained numerous attacks during Russia’s two-year invasion.

“According to preliminary data, it was a cruise missile. A serious fire continues at the site,” regional governor Oleh Synehubov said on national TV.

A furniture and paint products factory also was hit in the attack, said Serhiy Bolvinov, head of the investigative department of the regional police.

Rescuers rushed to the site to fight flames covering an area of more than 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet) and worked through the rubble in a search for survivors, the emergency service said. As many as 10 people possibly were trapped.

In a later post on the messaging app Telegram, Mayor Ihor Terekhov reported new shelling in the city.

"Kharkiv needs an adequate number of air defense systems, Sumy region needs it, Chernihiv region and all our regions suffering from Russian terror need it," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. "Our partners have these defense systems. And our partners need to understand that air defenses must protect lives."

Russia’s defense ministry reported that overnight its air defenses destroyed 13 Ukrainian missiles and one drone targeting the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine.

The defense ministry said it destroyed another four Ukrainian drones over the Saratov region of western Russia.

Roman Busargin, the regional governor of Saratov, said on Telegram there were no casualties or damage on the ground from falling debris.

Russian assets proposal

In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell proposed using revenue from frozen Russian assets in Europe to add to a fund used to send military support to Ukraine.

Borrell suggested taking proceeds, such as interest payments earned on the Russian assets, and direct 90% of that money into the European Peace Facility.

He said the proceeds would total about $3 billion per year.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal was in Brussels to take part in talks with EU officials that Borrell said would include discussing support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia as well as its path to joining the EU.

Climate of fear

In a new report, the United Nations’ human rights office said Russia has created a climate of fear in areas of Ukraine it is occupying.

Based on more than 2,300 interviews with victims and witnesses, the report said Moscow’s forces had imposed use of the Russian language and basic Russian governance, while suppressing expressions of Ukrainian culture and identity.

“The actions of the Russian Federation have ruptured the social fabric of communities and left individuals isolated, with profound and long-lasting consequences for Ukrainian society as a whole,” said Volker Turk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

The report said, “The occupying authorities shut down Ukrainian internet and mobile networks, TV and radio channels, with traffic rerouted through Russian networks, which allowed control over information accessible online and prevented the population from freely receiving information from independent news sources, families or friends. People were encouraged to inform on one another, leaving them afraid even of their own friends and neighbors.”

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