Minnesota delegation meets with lawmakers in DC to lobby for aid to Ukraine

Minnesotans lobby Congress for continued aid to Ukraine

Minnesotans lobby Congress for continued aid to Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine rages on, many eyes are on the nation’s capital and whether the U.S. will approve $60 billion in aid to Kyiv.

“There’s a stalemate in some places, where there’s intense and really horrific fighting going on,” says Mary Curtin, the former Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Minnesota. “There’s almost WWI-style trench warfare going on.”

And that worries Stephen Vitvitsky, from Minneapolis, who has family members in Ukraine.

“The anxiety, the worry is deeper, stronger, more prevalent in the weekly conversation we’ve had than ever before,” he declares.

Vitvitsky is part of a five-person Minnesota delegation visiting Washington D.C. this week to lobby members of Congress to vote in favor of that aid.

“So, the hope is here,” he says. “That does not mean that folks are deluded about their safety or their prospects in the immediate term and that’s why this aid from the United States is so crucial.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he’s worried American lawmakers are more concerned about politics than security.

“It means this is a matter of elections in the United States,” he says.

“The lack of consistent U.S. aid has been a problem, for not just Ukraine, but for marshalling aid from other countries as well,” Curtin explains.

She notes that Ukrainian forces are running short on supplies for artillery pieces and missile defense systems.

“Just in the last couple of weeks, Russia has really increased its bombardments of towns and cities, and the energy infrastructure in particular,” Curtin says. “When you combine what appears to be the U.S. inability to move money forward, with the Russians increasing aggressiveness, that makes it really difficult for Ukraine.”

Speaker Mike Johnson says the House would also consider legislation requiring that some of the funding be paid back.

But amid all this, he’s facing a leadership challenge.

Johnson is vowing a vote will take place by the end of the week.

“The Ukraine aid has actually gotten linked to the leadership struggles within the Republican party,” Curtin says. “And so, I think if there were not these divisions, I think it’d be easier to move that aid forward.”

For Vitvitsky, this is personal.

He says he often speaks to his second cousin, Mykhailo Pavliuk, a father of three who lives in Ukraine.  

“They are deeply worried,” he exclaims. “They’ve told colleagues and friends who live in and around Kyiv, wondering aloud whether they should leave Kyiv because Kyiv might no longer be safe.”