At least five people were killed and dozens injured across Ukrainian cities early Thursday in a barrage of missile and artillery strikes that appeared to back up President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's contention at the United Nations that Russia is a "terrorist state.''
Moscow's largest fusillade in more than a month came on a day when Zelenskyy was trying to rally support in Washington while losing the military assistance of neighboring Poland amid a growing trade dispute.
The widespread Russian attack killed five and wounded 10 in the southern Kherson province, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said, injured seven in Kyiv and wounded 11 in the central city of Cherkasy as damaged buildings that included a hotel turned into tons of rubble. Only Kherson among those stricken areas is near the front line.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it hit military targets with precision-guided missiles and drones, but at least six strikes in the northeastern city of Kharkiv impacted civilian infrastructure, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.
Marharyta Moldokova, 76, railed at Russian President Vladimir Putin after sheltering in her Kyiv home, where a window shattered.
“God, we can’t wait for someone to shoot him,” she said. “Everything is not enough for him. ... What does he need?”
∎ The White House announced a $325 million military assistance package for Ukraine that includes air defense munitions, cluster bombs and artillery ammunition. President Joe Biden also said the first U.S. Abrams tanks will arrive in Ukraine next week.
∎ Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU leaders, called for reforms to a United Nations “sclerotic and hobbled” decision-making system that has allowed Russia to remain a member of the Security Council with veto power despite invading Ukraine.
∎ Ukraine's new shipping corridor in the Black Sea can claim its first success as the Resilient Africa cargo ship, which left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk earlier in the week, arrived Thursday at Turkey's Bosphorus Strait with 3,000 tons of wheat. Ukraine has been seeking an efficient and safe export route since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal in mid-July.
∎ Russia said it fought off attacks from 22 drones overnight, 19 of them above Crimea.
∎ Belgium, which last week committed to training Ukrainian pilots on flying F-16s, said it would consider sending the war planes to Kyiv for fighting or training. So far, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have vowed to provide the jets.
Poland in tiff with Ukraine, says it won't supply weapons
Even as he tries to persuade Congress to approve the $24 billion in military and humanitarian aid for his country requested by Biden, Zelenskyy is encountering a significant problem closer to home.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, a neighbor that has hosted millions of Ukrainian refugees and remained a steadfast ally since the war started, said late Wednesday that his nation will no longer send weapons to Ukraine.
Morawiecki said the reason is Poland's desire to modernize its military because of concerns about Russian aggression, but an escalating trade dispute and pressure from an opposing party in the upcoming election provide a backdrop for the decision.
Government spokesman Piotr Mueller clarified Thursday that Poland is now only providing ammunition and armaments it had previously agreed to, pointing out “a series of absolutely unacceptable statements and diplomatic gestures appeared on the Ukrainian side.”
After Poland, Hungary and Slovakia announced a new ban on Ukrainian grain imports last week, saying they wanted to protect their farmers from a glut that lowered prices, Ukraine filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he believes Poland will continue to support Ukraine. Asked by a Polish reporter if he's concerned about losing Poland as a friend, Zelenskyy said in English: "I want to thank the Polish people, Polish society for their support. That's it.''
Contributing: Francesca Chambers
Zelenskyy visits Congress, where aid request meets resistance
Zelenskyy's second visit to Congress in less than a year was greeted with more skepticism than the hero's welcome he received in December, when Democrats still controlled the House.
As right-wing Republicans flex their muscle in negotiations over a spending bill, they showed no interest Thursday in funding the U.S. military, let alone the Ukrainian one. A small GOP contingent kept a Pentagon appropriations bill from even getting to the House floor for debate.
Despite Zelenskyy’s stop in Washington, which included a bipartisan meeting with a group of House lawmakers and an all-senators meeting, Biden will have an uphill battle in gaining approval of his $24 billion request in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
Ahead of the meeting with Zelenskyy, a coalition of 28 GOP senators and representatives signed a letter saying, “It would be an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility to grant this request.”
Asked after a White House meeting with Zelenskyy if he was confident of getting the package approved, Biden said, "I'm counting on the good judgement of the United States Congress. There's no alternative.''
− Ken Tran and Francesca Chambers
'Your heart cannot let you do otherwise,' Zelenskyy says in thanking US for help
Zelenskyy made a point of thanking the U.S. government and its people at his final two stops Thursday, first after Biden revealed the new military aid − "exactly what our soldiers need now,'' the Ukrainian leader said at the White House − and then in a speech at the National Archives early in the evening.
Zelenskyy addressed an audience that included former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fellow Rep. Adam Schiff, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Attorney General Merrick Garland, in addition to members of the Ukrainian community and others who have supported the country.
“There’s not a soul in Ukraine that does not feel gratitude to you, America,'' Zelenskyy said in an emotional speech shared with his wife, Olena Zelenska. "To you, the people who help us not because you have to but because your heart cannot let you do otherwise. Thank you.’’
Contributing: Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine war live updates: Russian barrage brings death, ruin, fury