Former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken about her surprise visit to Ukraine just after the Russian invasion had begun.
Pelosi and other lawmakers were ushered secretly into Kyiv, via a route that she will not divulge.
“It was very, it was dangerous,” Pelosi told the Associated Press before Sunday’s one-year anniversary of that trip.
“We never feared about it, but we thought we could die because we’re visiting a serious, serious war zone.”
Pelosi’s visit was as unusual as it was historic, opening a fresh diplomatic channel between the US and Ukraine that has only deepened with the prolonged war.
With a new Republican majority in the House whose Trump-aligned members have balked at overseas investments, Pelosi, a Democrat, remains confident the Congress will continue backing Ukraine as part of a broader US commitment to democracy abroad in the face of authoritarian aggression.
She added about the broader implications of the fight: “We must win. We must bring this to a positive conclusion — for the people of Ukraine and for our country,” Pelosi said. “There is a fight in the world now between democracy and autocracy, its manifestation at the time is in Ukraine.”
Hello and welcome back to our coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. This is Christine Kearney with the latest developments to bring you up to speed.
The UK Ministry of Defence reports that Russian commanders have likely started “punishing breaches in discipline” by detaining offending troops in what they call ‘Zindans’ – which are holes in the ground covered with a metal grille.
“Multiple recent reports from Russian personnel give similar accounts of being placed in Zindans for misdemeanours including drunkenness and attempting to terminate their contracts,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
The ministry noted since Autumn 2022 there had been increasingly draconian initiatives by Rusian commanders to improve discipline in its own force.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has praised the “absolute courage” of Evan Gershkovich, the US journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges, and reiterated calls on Moscow for his immediate release.
Biden, speaking at an annual dinner for White House correspondents on Saturday night, said the Wall Street Journal reporter, who is the first correspondent since the cold war to be detained in Russia on spying charges, sought to “shed light on the darkness” of the country and said American efforts to get him home would not cease.
More on those stories shortly. And in other news:
A huge fire in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on Saturday has been put out after what was reported to be a Ukrainian drone strike on fuel tanks at a Russian navy depot. Video footage posted on social media showed a large waterside area on fire, with a column of black smoke rising from the burning fuel. The fire was later extinguished, according to Moscow-installed governor Mikhail Razvozhaev. A Ukrainian military intelligence official said more than 10 tanks of oil products with a capacity of about 40,000 tonnes intended for use by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were destroyed, RBC Ukraine reported.
The death toll from Russia’s aerial attacks on cities across Ukraine early on Friday has risen to at least 26, including five children, as Kyiv said preparations for a counter-offensive against Moscow’s forces were nearly complete. Firefighters tackled a blaze at a residential apartment hit by a Russian missile in the central town of Uman and rescue workers clambered through a huge pile of smouldering rubble searching for survivors.
Two civilians died as a result of Ukrainian shelling on a village in Russia’s Bryansk region on Saturday evening, a local governor said. “According to preliminary information, one residential building was completely destroyed, two more houses were partially destroyed,” Governor Alexander Bogomaz said on the Telegram messaging app. “Emergency services continue to work at the scene.” Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
Ukraine remains in control of a key supply route into Bakhmut, a military spokesperson said on Saturday, as the head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group threatened to withdraw some of his troops from the eastern city if Moscow did not send more ammunition.
Russian forces have been trying for 10 months to punch their way into the shattered remains of what was once a city of 70,000. Kyiv has pledged to defend Bakhmut, which Russia sees as a stepping stone to attacking other cities.
Russia on Saturday promised it would respond harshly to what it said was Poland’s illegal seizure of its embassy school in Warsaw, an act it called a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. Polish state-run news channel TVP Info had earlier reported that police had showed up outside the Russian embassy school on Kielecka street in Warsaw on Saturday morning. Moscow’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreyev, told Russian state news agencies on Saturday that the move was illegal, but Poland said it was within its rights to take back the building.
Nancy Pelosi has spoken about her surprise visit to Ukraine just after the Russian invasion had begun. Pelosi and other lawmakers were ushered secretly into Kyiv, via a route that she will not divulge. “It was very, it was dangerous,” Pelosi told the Associated Press before Sunday’s one-year anniversary of that trip. “We never feared about it, but we thought we could die because we’re visiting a serious, serious war zone.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview on Saturday he carries a pistol and would have fought to the death alongside his inner circle had the Russians stormed his Kyiv headquarters at the start of the war. In the first days after the 24 February, 2022 invasion, Ukrainian officials said Russian intelligence units tried to break into Kyiv, but were defeated and failed to reach Bankova Street in the centre, home to the presidential offices. “I know how to shoot. Could you imagine [a headline like] ‘The President of Ukraine is taken captive by Russians?’ This is a disgrace. I believe this would be a disgrace,” he told the 1+1 television channel.
There is a realistic possibility the Russian missiles that struck Ukraine on Friday were an attempt to intercept Ukrainian reserve units and military supplies that were recently given to the country, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Saturday. In its intelligence update, the MoD said Moscow launched “the first major wave of cruise missile strikes against Ukraine since early March 2023.” The bombardment killed at least 25 people, and were a departure from Russia’s use of long-range strikes that targeted energy infrastructure over winter, it said.
Russian occupying authorities in southern Ukraine said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were subjecting the city of Novaya Kakhovka to “intense artillery fire” that had cut off electricity. The city’s authorities said on Telegram: “Novaya Kakhovka and settlements around the district are under very intense artillery fire from the armed forces of Ukraine.” Novaya Kakhovka is in the part of the southern Kherson region that Russia controls.
Five EU countries have agreed on a deal to allow the transit of Ukrainian food exports, the European Commission said, after temporary bans were imposed on the foodstuffs amid protests by farmers. The agreement with Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia comes as limits on Ukraine grain’s export channel via the Black Sea necessitate export overland via the country’s neighbours.