AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian refugees and humanitarian aid workers during a visit to PGE Narodowy Stadium, Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Warsaw. 

President Biden on Saturday met with Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland in recent weeks, getting a firsthand look at the humanitarian crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden toured PGE Narodowy Stadium in Warsaw, which is accommodating scores of refugees who have crossed over the border as Russia destroys cities and targets civilian spaces like hospitals and theaters. He spoke individually with men, women and children at the stadium, later telling reporters he was struck by the “depth and strength of the human spirit.”

“It’s incredible. You see all those little children. They just want a hug. They just want to say thanks. It just makes you so damn proud,” Biden said, calling those who have fled an “amazing group of people.”

The president at one point picked up a little girl wearing a pink jacket and held her in his arms for a few moments.

Biden said he met two people from Mariupol, a Ukrainian city that has come under heavy shelling from Russian forces. The Mariupol City Council earlier this month reported roughly 2,400 civilians had been killed in the city, and a theater and maternity hospital in the city were both hit by shelling.

One reporter asked Biden what he thought of Russian President Vladimir Putin for having caused the humanitarian fallout, and Biden responded by calling Putin “a butcher.” Biden on Friday reiterated his belief that Putin has committed war crimes.

Biden on Saturday also met with chef José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen has been working to provide meals to displaced Ukrainians.

The president on Friday was briefed on the humanitarian situation resulting from the Russian invasion, which started just over a month ago. Ten million people have been displaced in Ukraine, Biden said at the briefing, including 3.8 million who have fled to other countries. A significant portion of those refugees have crossed the border into Poland.

But the rapid rate at which people are fleeing is unlike other refugee crises in modern times and could threaten to stretch resources thin. U.S. Agency for International Development 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.

Tags Joe Biden Poland refugees Russia Samantha Power Ukraine Vladimir Putin
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