Bipartisan group of senators meets with Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Greg Nash
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks alongside Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a photo op following their meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.

A bipartisan group of senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv on Friday. 

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) met with Zelensky in the presidential palace and received a briefing on Ukraine’s security situation, according to a release from the Ukrainian president’s office. 

The release states that Zelensky thanked the senators for helping arrange his visit to the United States last month, in which he spoke before Congress and met with President Biden, and said he felt “strong support” from the U.S. 

“I appreciate the organization of this visit. I want to thank all of you, the entire society, all Americans,” he said. 

He also expressed appreciation for the most recent aid package that the U.S. announced for Ukraine. The package sends $2.5 billion to support Ukraine’s defense efforts with armored vehicles, air defense systems and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons and equipment. 

The release states Zelensky told the senators about the situation at the front lines of the conflict and the steps being taken to fight Russian forces. They also discussed strengthening sanctions on Russia and the possibility of recognizing the private Russian military group Wagner as a terrorist organization. 

The Biden administration placed new sanctions on Wagner on Friday over its role fighting against Ukrainian soldiers. 

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, further briefed the senators on the resistance to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian intelligence representatives and task force commanders told them about the status of Ukraine’s borders, the possibility of Russian troops taking further action, the eastern front and the effectiveness of air defense forces. 

The briefing also mentioned what Ukrainian forces need to better defend themselves against Russian airstrikes and protect critical infrastructure objects. 

“We are concerned that these attacks will continue. You know that they were also on New Year’s holidays, in particular on New Year’s Eve. About 200 missiles and drones were launched then. They will not stop,” Yermak said. 

Graham tweeted on Friday that all three senators had the same goal: Ukraine driving Russia out of its territory. He said the Ukrainian military needs tanks to achieve it. 

Western allies of Ukraine have discussed providing the country with tanks, but Germany, which makes the tanks, has been hesitant to provide them. 

Blumenthal tweeted that the trip shows Republicans and Democrats are united to give “steadfast” support to Ukraine. 

Whitehouse tweeted that U.S. support for Ukraine is “unwavering.”

Tags Andriy Yermak Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Lindsey Graham Richard Blumenthal Richard Blumenthal Russia-Ukraine war Sheldon Whitehouse Sheldon Whitehouse Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky

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