Ukrainian lawmakers visit the U.S. Capitol to ask for help in the war with Russia
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We got on the line yesterday with a Ukrainian leader on the move. Her name is Anastasia Radina. She's part of Ukraine's parliament and of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's governing party, and she was in Washington, D.C., making her way into the Capitol building as we spoke.
ANASTASIA RADINA: We are here in delegation of ladies-only Ukrainian MPs because men do have their duty to serve in Ukraine right now.
INSKEEP: I see. So you're the ones who were available to come here.
RADINA: We do our job with words, sharing our stories and getting as much attention to them as possible.
INSKEEP: Anastasia Radina traveled to the United States seeking more help for her country.
RADINA: We need military support, first and foremost. And when I'm saying military support, we're not asking to send U.S. troop to fight on Ukrainian soil. We are fighting, and we are fighting courageously. We aren't winning so far, but in order to ensure that we do win, we need weapons and we need that urgently. When I say urgently, I basically mean yesterday, without any delay.
INSKEEP: Of course, the United States has been supplying anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, most notably, along with other kinds of equipment. What kinds of equipment or weapons do you need that you're not getting?
RADINA: As of now, we are still talking about the need for fighter jets. We're talking about the need for air defense systems. This is crucial to save the life of Ukrainian civilians who are right now suffering much more than the servicemen, because Russian troops are knowingly and deliberately making a war against Ukrainian civilians. For example, the whole world is watching in horror in Mariupol, where people are for weeks without food, without electricity, without heating, in shelters, in basement, without opportunity to get any life supplies. Russian troops are not allowing humanitarian corridors. I'm afraid I have to say that the situation is as bad that dead bodies are piling up on the streets, and there is simply no one able to ensure proper and dignified burial for these people because shellings are going on constantly, and 90% of the city is already in ashes.
INSKEEP: As you and I are talking, Russian and Ukrainian representatives have emerged from peace talks in Istanbul. And Russian officials have been saying their troops are backing away from Kyiv and that they see that as a constructive step to create room for negotiations. What do you make of that statement?
RADINA: We are in war with Russia actually from 2014, when Russia first invaded and occupied Crimea, and then when Russia-supported terrorist troops invaded Donetsk and Luhansk regions. So we trust Russia when we see their troops actually withdraw - not before.
INSKEEP: Let me talk about something that your president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has mentioned on a number of occasions. He has talked, at times, of the possibility of neutral status for Ukraine, abandoning the ambition of joining NATO someday. But that might be something that has to be put to the Ukrainian people. So let me ask you, as a political leader, do you think that abandoning NATO could pass a referendum in Ukraine - neutral status?
RADINA: Well, I think that we can only talk about that when Russian troops are fully withdrawn, because any negotiations while they are bombing our cities, when they are killing our civilians - that's just not a way to go. And let me just tell you that tonight, what they did is they shelled Mykolaiv once again and they hit the building of state administration. There are still people under rubble. There are at least 10 civilians dead. Is this a situation when one can negotiate a compromise?
INSKEEP: Can I just ask - you're originally from Kyiv, is that right?
RADINA: Yes, I am from Kyiv. I am.
INSKEEP: What were circumstances like in that city before you left for this delegation?
RADINA: There were air raid alarms few times a day. It can be three times a day. It can be four times a day. Kyiv suburbs are still being shelled, and still missiles hit residential areas of the city. So as of now, at least half of the population of the city left. But those who are still in Kyiv cannot feel safe in any basically place around the city or in its suburbs. And fighting continues just, like, 20 kilometers away from the center of Kyiv.
INSKEEP: Have you spent a lot of your days and nights in bomb shelters?
RADINA: Unfortunately, I had to. Yes.
INSKEEP: How's your family?
RADINA: My family is in Ukraine. So right now, my family and my 2-year-old son is in Ukraine. And I have an application in my cellphone that tells me about the air raid alarms in the community where my son is staying. And may I tell you, this is the most terrifying experience I have ever had being a mother, hearing the air raid alarm in the community where my son is staying while I'm advocating on behalf of all Ukrainian mothers and their kids.
INSKEEP: That experience must be multiplied millions of times in Ukraine right now.
RADINA: Exactly. And many, many mothers in Ukraine have much more terrifying experiences. For example, I've just learned that a dead newborn has been recovered in shelter in Mariupol. Allegedly, there simply was no possibility to feed him. There are mothers who are blocked in shelters under rubble with no opportunity to feed their babies. There are mothers who have to explain to their kids why they are witnessing their parents dying. There are terrifying experiences all over Ukraine, and these are just few that get highlighted. So we wish you were to hear more of the terrifying stories.
RADINA: Anastasia Radina is a Ukrainian legislator now in the United States as part of what she called a ladies-only delegation because Ukrainian men are serving in the military. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.