GOP senator makes surprise trip to Kyiv
Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, making a surprise visit to the country.
The senator’s office said Monday that Risch went to “see firsthand the destruction caused by Russia.”
Risch also traveled outside Kyiv to the suburb of Irpin and the small city of Hostomel, both sites where Ukrainian forces fought pitched battles to oust Russian troops and where evidence of atrocities against civilians, including evidence of torture and extrajudicial killings, were discovered in the wake of the Russian retreat.
“I was taken aback by the atrocities I saw firsthand in Irpin and Hostomel, and we cannot stand by and watch these happen again,” Risch said in a statement.
“I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the Biden Administration uses the authorities Congress has given to provide President Zelenskyy and Ukrainian defense forces exactly what they need to end this conflict. Ukraine must win this fight.”
Zelensky on Monday posted a video on Instagram of his meeting with the senator, and in a statement said they discussed the situation on the frontline of the war against Russia, deepening bilateral defense cooperation, strengthening sanctions and to “finally recognize Russia as a sponsor of terrorism.”
Oleksii Kuleba, the head of Kyiv regional military administration, tweeted on Monday photos with the senator and said he was grateful “to international partners for their strong support.”
It’s unclear which days Risch visited the country. Russia launched missile attacks on Kyiv on Sunday, killing at least one person and wounding six more, according to local officials.
The missile attacks marked a renewed targeting of the capital city as President Biden and world leaders from the Group of 7 nations are meeting in the Bavarian alps in Germany to address the fallout from Russia’s more than five-month assault on Ukraine and reaffirm solidarity to the Ukrainian government.
The president will then travel to Madrid for the NATO-summit, where the 30-member alliance is also set to reaffirm support for Ukraine, condemn Russia’s invasion, pursue the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance and expand its mandate to confront security challenges posed by China.
Biden, ahead of his trip to Europe, announced a $450 million military package for Ukraine that included advanced rocket systems, patrol boats and ammunition. It brings the total U.S. assistance to Ukraine since February to $6.1 billion.
Still, Ukrainian officials and its supporters have called for the U.S. and allies to go even farther on their military assistance, to include fighter jets and more advanced weaponry and long-range missile launchers.