Congress gets up close view of 'horrific' Russia-Ukraine war: Makes you want 'to break down in tears'
Rep. Fitzpatrick warns Putin could create 'entire generation of widows and orphans' amid Ukrainian assault
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Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee organized the trip last weekend to see firsthand the aftermath of Russian President Vladimir Putin's all-out war on Ukraine and its civilians.
"It's just horrific," Meeks told Fox News Digital of the scenes at the Poland-Ukraine border. "It made me and a number of others almost want to break down in tears."
The members of Congress saw scores of cold women and children crossing to Poland, having to abruptly leave their peaceful lives and their belongings to flee for safety in a neighboring country. They witnessed "heartbreaking" goodbyes at the border where men aged 18-60 had to return to Ukraine to fight for freedom, while their families sought refuge in Poland.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., organized a bipartisan trip to Poland over the March 4, 2022 weekend. Here members of Congress are at the border of Ukraine as refugees enter the country. Photo courtesy of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with permission. (Photographer Brennan Heil)
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., recalled seeing a tearful mother of four who said goodbye to her husband who had to return to the fight in Ukraine. She didn't have gloves as she crossed into Poland and her son was blowing on her hands to keep her warm. Wagner said she gave the Ukrainian woman her gloves.
"I've been in Congress for 10 years and this was probably the most important and consequential trip that I have ever made abroad," Wagner told Fox News Digital. "We weren't there as Republicans and Democrats. We were there as Americans to show … support and to let our allies know … that we have their backs and let the Ukrainian people know that we here in America will be there for them."
Maksym Kozytskyy, the governor of Lviv, Ukraine, meets with members of Congress at the Poland-Ukraine border over the March 4, 2022 weekend. Photo courtesy of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with permission. ( Photographer Brennan Heil)
As chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Meeks travels the world. He said he was last in Ukraine less than a month ago – just before Russia's invasion. Seeing the peaceful, sovereign country suddenly under assault by Putin's forces moved Meeks to organize the trip along with the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
"I couldn't sleep at night," Meeks said of images of destruction he saw from the news reports of war. "I decided that I had a responsibility as the chair of this committee to go, and I went to Mr. McCaul and he felt the same way."
Members of the bipartisan congressional delegation at the Ukraine-Poland border during the weekend of March 4, 2022. (Courtesy of Rep. Victoria Spartz's office)
They didn't go into Ukraine, but the governor of Lviv, Ukraine, Maksym Kozytskyy, left his city to visit the members of Congress at the Polish border, in another powerful moment.
"He came across and he was just talking about how they will fight and they will never give up and they're going to win," Meeks said of Kozytskyy. "They wanted to get the ammunition that was needed. But he was just saying ‘we are not ever going to give up.’ When he was finished, he moved me so much. I had to hug him. I didn't know what else to do."
Other members on the trip to the Ukraine border were Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind.; David Cicilline, D-R.I.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.; Susan Wild, D-Pa.; and Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
The lawmakers met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national and local officials and received briefings from the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., traveled to the Ukraine-Poland border the weekend of March 4, 2022, to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Victoria Spartz's office)
As the U.S. beefs up its troop presence in Europe, the military mission is to "assure and deter," Wagner explained – assure NATO allies as well as deter Putin from escalating the war beyond Ukraine.
The members said they came away from the trip moved by the suffering and completely united in their drive to ensure Ukraine has the weapons and humanitarian aid it needs.
As a result, the House just passed $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid-- more than the $10 billion the Biden administration requested.
"Putin is a brutal, evil person," Meeks said. "… It is a betrayal of mankind for him to do what he's doing. …There's only one person that's responsible for the tragedy that's taking place right now … and his name is Vladimir Putin. And he's going to get his in the end."