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US Lawmakers Visit Kyiv, Meet Zelenskyy


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, third from right, and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, third from left, talk during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 30, 2022.

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and four Democratic congressmen visited Kyiv Saturday and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Pelosi told Zelenskyy that the visit was intended to thank Ukraine for its fight for freedom and that the U.S. commitment is to be there for Ukraine until the fight is done.

With Pelosi were Representatives Adam Schiff of California, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Gregory Meeks of New York and Jason Crow of Colorado.

A Russian missile strike on the Odesa airport Saturday damaged the runway, rendering it useless, the Ukrainian military reported.

One witness told CNN that she saw at least one combat plane over the southern city; the blasts were heard soon after air raid sirens sounded across the city.

Russian forces pounded Ukraine's eastern Donbas region Saturday but failed to capture three target areas, Ukraine's military said. The target areas were Lyman in Donetsk and Sievierodonetsk and Popasna in Luhansk, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in its daily update.

"Not succeeding - the fighting continues," it said.

Ukrainian military personnel inspect the site of a missile strike in front of a damaged residential building in Dobropillia, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 30, 2022.
Ukrainian military personnel inspect the site of a missile strike in front of a damaged residential building in Dobropillia, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 30, 2022.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian police said they had found the bodies of three civilian men in the Bucha district, north of Kyiv. Police said the bodies were in a pit and the victims’ hands were bound, their eyes were covered and two were gagged.

“There are traces of torture on the corpses, as well as gunshot wounds to various parts of the body,” Kyiv’s regional police chief, Andriy Nebytov, said in a statement. “The victims were tortured for a long period of time; bullet wounds were found on the extremities. Finally, each of the men was shot in the ear.”

Kyiv says more than 1,000 bodies have been discovered in or around Bucha, where it alleges systematic abuse by Russian soldiers occupying the area.

The governor of Russia’s western Kursk region said several shells were fired Saturday at a checkpoint near its border from the direction of Ukraine. Speaking in a video posted on his Telegram channel, Governor Roman Starovoit said there were no casualties or damage. Reuters said it could not immediately verify the report, and there was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Evacuations, prisoner exchanges

Ukraine said it had managed to evacuate 20 women and children from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol.

Civilians who left the area near Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walk accompanied by a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, May 1, 2022.
Civilians who left the area near Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walk accompanied by a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine, May 1, 2022.

CNN reported that satellite images taken Friday show that nearly every building on the sprawling steel plant had been destroyed by intense shelling by artillery, ships and airstrikes.

To the north, Ukraine evacuated more people Saturday in the eastern town of Lyman in the fiercely fought-over region of Donetsk, where at least half the residents have fled Russian shelling since the start of the war.

Ukraine carried out a prisoner exchange with Russia on Saturday, with seven soldiers and seven civilians coming home, deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online posting. One of the soldiers was a woman who is five months pregnant, she added. She did not say how many Russians had been transferred.

Kherson

The British Defense Ministry said early Sunday that Russia is trying to legitimize its control of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, through installing a pro-Russian administration.

That administration has declared a return to Ukrainian control for the city and surrounding area "impossible" and announced that the Russian ruble will be used in Kherson beginning Sunday.

The ministry said that Russian control of Kherson and its transport links will help sustain Russia’s efforts to advance to the west and north and improve Russia’s control over Crimea.

Russian Assertions

In other developments, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a number of assertions in two interviews Saturday.

Early in the day, he told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya Television there was no need for anybody to provide help to open up humanitarian corridors out of Ukraine’s besieged cities.

“We appreciate the interest of the secretary-general to be helpful,” he added. “(We have) explained … what is the mechanism for them to monitor how the humanitarian corridors are announced.”

He also accused the West of being “Russia phobic” and complained that his country never lived a day without being subject to sanctions by the West.

“So ... to believe that this latest wave of sanctions is going to make Russia cry ‘Uncle’ and to beg for being pardoned, those planners are lousy and, of course, they don’t know anything about [the] foreign policy of Russia and they don’t know anything about how to deal with Russia.”

Later, in an interview with China’s official Xinhua news agency, Lavrov said the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia is part of peace talks with Ukraine.

"At present, the Russian and Ukrainian delegations are actually discussing on a daily basis via video-conferencing a draft of a possible treaty," Lavrov said in comments published on the Russian foreign ministry's website on Saturday.

"The talks' agenda ... includes, among other things, the issues of denazification, the recognition of new geopolitical realities, the lifting of sanctions, the status of the Russian language," Lavrov said.

But Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak denied this was the case, saying, “the issue of global international sanctions against the Russian Federation is not discussed at all” in negotiations.

Further, Podolyak added, Lavrov had not attended a single negotiating round and Ukraine did not need lessons in "denazification" or use of the Russian language from those who had attacked and occupied Ukrainian towns and cities.

"It is for all our partners, together with Ukraine, to decide what decisions should be taken on sanctions, and when,” he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters provided some information in this report.

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