Biden pledges support amid humanitarian fallout from Ukraine
President Biden on Friday vowed the United States would do its part to ease the suffering of millions of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s invasion of their country during a stop in Poland, which has seen scores of refugees cross over the border in recent weeks.
Biden received a briefing alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda in Rzeszów on efforts to address the refugee crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The situation has rapidly escalated as Russia targets civilian spaces like hospitals and theaters in major cities.
“The single most important thing that we can do from the outset is keep the democracies united in our opposition and our effort to curtail the devastation that is occurring at the hands of a man who, quite frankly, I think is a war criminal, and I think it will meet the legal definition of that as well,” Biden said, referencing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden, who noted he has visited war zones around the globe during his time as a senator and as vice president, said he was disappointed not to be able to see the devastation in Ukraine first-hand, though he acknowledged the security risks.
“I’m eager to hear from you in the humanitarian community about what you see, what you’re doing, and where you think we go from here,” Biden said.
Ten million people have been displaced in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, Biden said, including 3.8 million who have fled to other countries. A significant portion of those refugees have crossed the border into Poland.
Duda, who delivered remarks in Polish, said the country would rather label the refugees as “guests,” according to a translation of his comments, signaling the country’s willingness to receive Ukrainians fleeing the war with open arms.
But the rapid rate at which people are fleeing is unlike other refugee crises in modern times. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power said Friday it took four years for 4 million Syrians to flee the civil war in their country, but Ukraine could reach that number after just over a month of the Russian invasion.
The White House announced on Thursday that the U.S. will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide $1 billion in support for European nations handling an influx of individuals fleeing the Russian invasion.
“Whether it’s food, or blankets, or cash, or the care for medical teams that we send in, or child welfare specialists, they need it now. They need it as rapidly as we can get it there,” Biden said Friday before praising Poland’s willingness to welcome refugees.
“The suffering that’s taking place now is at your doorstep. You’re the ones who are risking in some cases your lives and risking all you know to try to help,” Biden said. “And the American people are proud to support your efforts. And today I want to hear from all of you.”