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McConnell, GOP senators meet Zelenskyy in surprise Kyiv stop

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and a delegation of GOP senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv during an unannounced visit Saturday, delivering the latest show of American solidarity with the country at war with Russia.

“Our delegation reaffirmed to President Zelenskyy that the United States stands squarely behind Ukraine and will sustain our support until Ukraine wins this war," McConnell said in a statement released after the delegation had left Ukraine.

A video posted on Zelenskyy’s Telegram account showed McConnell, R-Ky., and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas greeting him in the capital. Zelensky, in an Instagram post, called the visit “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people.”

Later, in his nightly video address. Zelenskyy said he believed that the senators' trip showed "the strong connection between the Ukrainian and American people. We discussed various areas of support for our country, including defense and finance, as well as strengthening sanctions against Russia.”

The trip came at a time when the Senate is working to approve a nearly $40 billion package for Ukraine, a substantial infusion of support that will push American aid to the region well above $50 billion. The measure includes $6 billion for Ukraine for intelligence, equipment and training for its forces, plus $4 billion in financing to help Ukraine and NATO allies build up their militaries.

Passage was delayed Thursday by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who demanded the inclusion of a proposal to have an inspector general scrutinize the new spending. But final approval is not in doubt and could come in the week ahead, reflecting overwhelming support in Congress for replenishing the Ukrainian war effort.

“They’re only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion,” McConnell said this past week of the Ukrainians. “And they need this help right now.”

In his statement after the visit, McConnell called the visit “inspiring” and said he and his colleagues had seen firsthand “the courage, unity, and resolve of the Ukrainian people.”

McConnell added: “It is squarely in our national interest to help Ukraine achieve victory in this war and to help Ukraine and other countries deter other wars of aggression before they start.”

It was the second high-profile congressional delegation to stop in Ukraine in as many weeks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited on May 1 with a group of House Democrats and promised Zelenskyy that the United States will “be there for you until the fight is done.”

First lady Jill Biden visited western Ukraine last weekend for a Mother’s Day meeting with Zelenskyy's wife, Olena Zelenska.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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