Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Biden heads to Poland to showcase human cost of Russia’s war on Ukraine

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US President Joe Biden makes a statement about Russia with European Commission President at the US Chief of Mission residence in Brussels, on March 25, 2022.

Brendan Smialowski | Afp | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will land in to Rzeszów, Poland, on Friday to begin the second leg of his emergency trip to Europe, one month into Russia’s unprovoked invasion or Ukraine.

Following a day of NATO and G-7 summits in Brussels that were focused on military readiness and punitive measures against Russia, Biden’s visit to Poland offers the president a chance to showcase the human cost of Russia’s increasingly brutal war.

Over the course of two days in Poland, Biden is expected to meet with some of the more than 3.7 million refugees who have been forced to flee Ukraine, the vast majority of whom are women and children.

Biden will also meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda to discuss the worsening humanitarian crises in the countries surrounding Ukraine, which have borne the brunt of the flood of refugees.

Poland, which shares a 530-kilometer land border with Ukraine, is itself at the epicenter of the unfolding European migrant crisis, having welcomed over 2.2 million people — almost two-thirds of all refugees — in the month since the war’s outbreak.

Several other countries to Ukraine’s southwest border have also taken in large numbers of migrants, including Romania, with over 570,000, Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia.

That has put considerable strain on authorities, health-care systems and humanitarian aid agencies with host nations urging greater financial assistance from Western allies to help support the still growing number of arrivals.

Biden is sometimes referred to stateside as America’s “comforter-in-chief” for his ability to empathize with people who have undergone great tragedy, something to which Biden, a remarried widower who has lost two of his four children, can personally relate.

On Thursday, Biden announced the U.S. is prepared to commit more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to help aid Ukrainians still inside the country and those who have become refugees.

“Many Ukrainian refugees will wish to stay in Europe, closer to their homes,” said Biden, so that they can return quickly to Ukraine as soon as the war is over.

For those who want to relocate to the U.S., however, Biden said the country is prepared to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians, “with a focus on reuniting families.”

As the war grinds on and the Russian military fails to make significant advancements, Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s tactics have become increasingly barbaric.

As Biden departed for Europe on Wednesday, the United States government formally accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine and said those responsible should face prosecution.

In announcing the official U.S. determination, Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeatedly raised the brutality in the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, and he compared it to similar Russian campaigns against Grozny in the Second Chechen War and Aleppo during the Syrian civil war.

“Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed or wounded,” Blinken said in a statement.

Many of the buildings Russian forces have hit are “clearly identifiable as in-use by civilians,” Blinken said, citing bombings of the Mariupol maternity hospital and a theater there that was clearly marked with the word for children in Russian “in huge letters visible from the sky.”

—CNBC’s Karen Gilchrist contributed to this article.



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