Ukrainian Hero Makes Plea for Continued US Support
WASHINGTON — While Ukraine’s prime minister celebrated military advances in occupied regions, a hero of the country’s war against Russia described for Congress Thursday why U.S. support is crucial to their independence.
Yuliia “Taira” Paievska ran down a list of atrocities, which she backed up with video she shot on her own mobile phone.
Before she was imprisoned by the Russians for three months, Paievska organized volunteer Ukrainian medics into a group called Taira’s Angels. She is credited with saving about 700 lives.
Some of her lost causes were displayed on the video broadcast during the hearing of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.
They showed doctors in Mariupol, Ukraine, operating on civilians with grievous wounds from the fighting.
In one portion of the video, Paievska closes the eyes of a small boy who was shot multiple times before dying at the hospital where she worked. Both of his parents were already dead.
The final scene in the video shows Paievska sitting in what appears to be the front seat of an ambulance.
“On March 16, days after recording this selfie, Taira and her colleague disappeared,” says The Associated Press narrator.
During a document check by Russian soldiers, she was arrested, put into a cell with only bars over the windows during the cold days of March and had her daily thyroid and asthma medicines temporarily taken from her.
“I’m a paramedic,” Paievska said while reading her testimony in heavily accented English. “My mission is saving lives. The Russians call me a Nazi.”
After telling lawmakers about civilians burned beyond recognition in their cars, Russians putting the dead and wounded together into piles and the gruesome torture of prisoners, she said the threat reaches far beyond Ukraine.
“It is very obvious that if they achieve victory in Ukraine, they were planning to move on further in Europe,” Paievska said.
Her capture was reported in news accounts in Russia and Ukraine. She was released when the Russians realized her treatment of the wounded was apolitical, sometimes including injured Russian soldiers.
The abuse she suffered and witnessed haunts her still, prompting her on Thursday to call for continued U.S. assistance.
“We have a lot of support, including the biggest — the people of the United States — who are supporting our fight for survival directly,” Paievska said.
She said it was important for the truth to prevail in the war in Ukraine but added, “Without weapons, all that will have no meaning.”
As the Russian land war hits stiff opposition, its military is launching more air strikes, especially at power plants and other critical infrastructure. Paievska said the Ukrainians need more anti-aircraft systems as part of U.S. aid.
Her pleas won a sympathetic audience from members of the Helsinki Commission.
“The United States stands with Ukraine,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the commission’s chairman. “Mr. Putin is responsible for these actions.”
Rep. Stephen Cohen, D-Tenn., said, “What Russia has done in Ukraine needs to be known and needs to be punished.”
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said the consequences of the war in Ukraine could stretch worldwide if the Russians win, prompting them to try to force Georgia and other nearby countries to rejoin the former Soviet Union. In addition, China might be emboldened to invade Taiwan and Iran to attack Israel.
“Your success is crucial to all of us,” Wilson told Paievska.
Joining in the plea for more military assistance was Hanna Hopko, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament and co-founder of the International Center for Ukrainian Victory.
“Ukraine’s mission is to defeat totalitarian colonialism,” Hopko said.
A further sign of Russia’s difficulties in pursuing the war emerged Thursday when Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that China is expressing concerns about Ukraine. The Chinese government strongly supported Russian policies just before the war but now refuses to officially endorse its military campaign.