Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern returned today from the first Congressional delegation to visit Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other representatives.
McGovern, who called in to Boston Public Radio during a fuel stop in Ireland while flying back to the U.S., said meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev was the most significant part of the trip.
“I was emotional because I saw this man … with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but not giving up and believing that there's a pathway forward in which the Ukrainian people will prevail and basically good will triumph over evil,” McGovern said. “And what Putin is doing is evil. I mean, there's no doubt about it.”
McGovern said that Zelenskyy expressed gratitude for support thus far, while calling for more foreign aid. When asked if he thought the U.S. was doing enough, the Congressman referenced a new multi-billion dollar aid package for the Ukrainian military he expects will move forward soon in Congress. He also emphasized the global importance of supporting refugees fleeing Ukraine, having visited Poland with the delegation as well.
“If this goes on, they're going to clearly need additional help,” McGovern said. “Others, including the United States, need to be welcoming to refugees from Ukraine … we have to do whatever is necessary to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis. These are real people who are suffering unthinkable pain. And not just us, but the world needs to be there."
The Congressman also called for accountability towards investigating war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. Last week, McGovern introduced a bill along with California Representative Sara Jacobs aimed at allowing the U.S. to give funding to the International Criminal Court to help with war crime investigations. Currently, U.S. laws limit the government’s ability to aid the Court.
“We just can't go back to business as usual, because when people commit war crimes and if they're not held accountable, then the bottom line is that they will do it again with impunity,” McGovern said.
McGovern emphasized that the stakes of holding Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible are larger than Ukraine, both because of the food Ukraine provides to the rest of the world and for the sake of global security.
“It's important that they succeed because Putin's not done,” he said. “He has these visions of expanding the Russian empire. We met with the president of Poland today, and even though they’re part of NATO, he's worried about their security given Putin's rhetoric and what he believes is a desire to continue to expand and expand and expand.”
Returning from his trip, McGovern stressed the resilience he saw among the Ukrainian people. “These people are still standing because what Russia lacks and what they have is a people who are committed to freedom and to their independence and who believe in human rights,” he said. “They're just not going to give in.”