Senate Leader Mitch McConnell led a delegation of Republican lawmakers to Kiev on Saturday and met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Video shared by Zelensky shows him greeting the GOP delegation on a street in Kiev, which remains firmly in Ukrainian control nearly two months after Russia launched its invasion of the country.
The video showed McConnell, who represents the state of Kentucky, and Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas greeting Zelensky.
McConnell said Thursday that the Senate must immediately approve a new aid package for Ukraine after the House of Representatives approved $40 billion in new aid for Kiev this week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes US minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in Kiev on Saturday
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) called the delegation’s visit “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine” in a statement.
“I fully support the next package of deadly military aid, which the House has passed by an overwhelming two-party majority. I hope the Senate can reach an agreement to consider and pass this legislation today. The Ukrainians need it. We have to do it today,” he said on the Senate floor.
However, Republican Senators John Kennedy of Louisiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky have stuck to the legislation despite bipartisan support for the measure.
Paul wants special supervision of the money to prevent fraud. He proposes an amendment to appoint a special inspector general to oversee spending.
The McConnell delegation’s trip to Ukraine was not announced in advance for security reasons.
Zelensky in a statement called the delegation’s visit “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.”
“Thank you for your leadership in helping us fight not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms.”
Meanwhile, Kiev and Moscow’s forces are engaged in a protracted battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
Russian troops are withdrawing from Ukraine’s second-largest city after bombing it for weeks, the Ukrainian army said on Saturday.
The trip of the McConnell delegation was not announced in advance for security reasons
McConnell visited Kiev after saying Senate must immediately approve new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
Ukraine’s General Staff said the Russians withdrew from the northeastern city of Kharkov and concentrated on guarding supply routes, while launching mortars, artillery and air strikes into the eastern Donetsk province to “exhaust Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.” ‘.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine “enters a new – protracted – phase of the war.”
Zelensky said the Ukrainians were doing their “maximum” to drive out the Russian invaders and that the outcome of the war would depend on the support of Europe and other allies.
“No one can predict today how long this war will last,” Zelensky said in his overnight video address.
Tensions between the US and Russia reached new heights this weekend, as officials in Moscow launched bombastic rhetoric over Finland’s bid to join NATO’s security alliance.
Ukrainian servicemen of the Territorial Defense Forces fire an anti-tank grenade launcher on Saturday as they participate in a training exercise in the Dnipropetrovsk region
Ukrainian army soldiers march past a burning natural gas terminal in the northern suburbs of Kharkov, Ukraine on Friday
A formal announcement of Finland’s intention to apply for NATO membership is expected on Sunday.
President Joe Biden held a joint appeal Friday with the leaders of Finland and Sweden, who are also examining NATO membership in the face of Russian anger.
During the call, Biden underlined “his support for NATO’s open-door policy and for Finland’s and Sweden’s right to decide their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements,” said a White House statement.
The deputy chairman of the State Duma Defense Commission, Aleksey Zhuravlyov, told Russian state media: “If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our goal is absolutely legitimate: to question the existence of this state. This is logical.
‘If the United States threatens our state, it’s fine: here’s the Sarmat [Satan-2 missile] for you, and there will be nuclear ash from you if you think that Russia should not exist.
And Finland says it is one with the US. Well, get in line,” Zhuravlyov said.
“The Finns in general should be grateful to Russia for their state, for the fact that Finland exists as a country.”