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July 6, 2022

McConnell leads GOP delegation to meet with Zelenskyy in Ukraine

McConnell leads GOP delegation to meet with Zelenskyy in Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., led a Republican congressional delegation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Saturday in Kyiv.

After leaving Ukraine, McConnell said in a statement that the group witnessed firsthand the “courage, unity and resolve of the Ukrainian people,” and that they “only ask for the tools they need for self-defense.”

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas, and John Barrasso of Wyoming were among the delegation.

McConnell said the delegation “reaffirmed to President Zelenskyy that the United States stands squarely behind Ukraine and will sustain our support until Ukraine wins this war.

“It is also essential that America not stand alone. Our allies and partners must continue to step up and do their part,” he continued, adding that defending Ukraine and the principle of sovereignty has a direct impact on U.S. national security.

Speaking after their meeting, Zelenskyy said that the visit by the group of senators shows the strength of U.S.-Ukraine ties.

“We discussed various areas of support for our state, including defensive and financial. As well as tightening sanctions on Russia. I expressed gratitude for the historic decision to renew the Lend Lease program. I called for the official recognition of Russia as a terrorist state,” Zelenskyy said.

Asked for comment on Sunday, McConnell told reporters he “would support” a vote on recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, adding, “I think it’s a good idea.”

He also said that he thinks the U.S. “ought to be first in line” to ratify the treaty that would permit Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO.

The visit comes days after the House passed a $40 billion aid package for military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The Senate is expected to approve it this week after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., denied leaders of both parties the unanimous agreement they needed for quick passage of the legislation.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also led a congressional delegation to meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Rebecca Shabad is a politics reporter for NBC News based in Washington.

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