Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, welcomes Rep. Michael Quigley (D-Ill.), second from...

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, welcomes Rep. Michael Quigley (D-Ill.), second from left, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-N.C.) and Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.) in Chernigiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and toured war-torn neighborhoods of Ukraine over the past week as part of a bipartisan congressional trip aimed at increasing U.S. support for the country’s war against Russia.

Suozzi and a group of five other lawmakers — including Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — are expected to land in the United States on Monday, just as the fight for Ukraine funding is expected to intensify in the U.S. House.

House Speaker Mike Johnson recently indicated he would bring forward a Ukraine aid package when the House returns from recess on Tuesday, but the exact amount of aid and the structure of the bill remains unclear.

Johnson (R-La.), facing the threat of an expulsion effort from far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.), has for weeks resisted scheduling a vote for a $95 billion defense package passed by the U.S. Senate in February, that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate have balked at the package, arguing in part that the United States should not be funding Ukraine’s fight against Russia because they believe it’s the sole duty of European allies.

In a phone interview Saturday afternoon with Newsday from Ukraine, Suozzi said he and the other lawmakers plan to return with the message: “Putin must be stopped. The Ukrainians are running out of time and we must act within the next two weeks.”

Suozzi, who served in the House from 2017 to 2023 and in February won the special election to replace former Rep. George Santos, said he joined the trip to Ukraine as part of his role on the House Homeland Security Committee. Santos, a Republican who represented the Nassau and Queens district before he was expelled last December, was among the faction of Republicans who objected to U.S. funding for Ukraine.

During Suozzi’s trip to Ukraine, the group of lawmakers toured the community of Bucha, where Suozzi said hundreds of Ukrainians were killed and tortured during a monthlong siege by Russian troops who were eventually driven out by Ukrainian forces. More than 450 bodies were recovered, several in mass graves, after the invasion.

Suozzi said three missiles and 28 drones were launched against Ukraine Friday, “including targeting Kyiv, while we were there.” He provided Newsday with the image of a map tracking the airborne weapons and said they were shot down with anti-aircraft weapons.

“The bottom line is we have to act,” Suozzi said. “This is a desperate situation, and Putin is not going to stop. If he succeeds in Ukraine, he'll go to other countries as well, history has proven that.”

Zelenskyy, in a post on the social media site X, said he told the lawmakers about “our army’s urgent needs.”

“I emphasized the vital need for the United States Congress to promptly adopt a decision to further support our state, providing an appropriate package to protect against Russian terror and enable us to continue our dynamic actions,” Zelenskyy wrote. “This is precisely what would strengthen Ukraine and protect human life.”

Johnson, in a March 31 Fox News interview, said his plan for Ukraine will call on the United States to liquidate frozen assets seized from sanctioned Russian leaders and entities to direct to Ukraine. Johnson also proposed tying any Ukraine aid vote to the roll back of a Biden administration moratorium on new permits for liquefied natural gas export facilities. The move would probably help garner support from Republicans opposed to Biden’s clean energy agenda.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a letter to senators sent Friday, said the chamber “will continue to keep pressure on the House to act” on Ukraine funding.

“I have spoken with Speaker Johnson, and I believe that he understands the threat of further delaying the national security supplemental,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote.

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