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McConnell leads delegation to meet with Zelensky in Ukraine

By Adam Schrader
1/5
McConnell leads delegation to meet with Zelensky in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office | License Photo

May 14 (UPI) -- Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday led a delegation of lawmakers to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The surprise visit was revealed by Zelensky in a video posted to Facebook, which included a statement thanking the Republican senators for leadership "in helping us fight not only for our country but for democratic values and freedoms."

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"The visit of the U.S. Senate delegation led by Republican minority leader to the Upper House of Congress, Mitchell McConnell, is a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people," Zelensky said. "We do appreciate it very much."

Sens. John Barrasso, John Cornyn and Susan Collins were among the delegation and appeared to be accompanied by U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Ukraine Kristina A. Kvien, the video shows. Kvien returned to Kyiv on Sunday with a group of diplomats for the first time since before Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

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The visit by McConnell marked a rare international trip for the lawmaker, who earlier this week praised the "brave people of Ukraine" for defending themselves amid the Russian invasion.

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"Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy -- it bears directly on America's national security and vital interests that Russia's naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow."

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In recent weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the first official delegation of lawmakers to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky.

"We believe that we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom, that we are on a frontier of freedom, and that your fight is a fight for everyone and so our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done," Pelosi said during the visit.

Pelosi was joined in the visit by Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Rep. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee. Reps. Barbara Lee, Bill Keating and Jason Crow also participated in the delegation.

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Pelosi's delegation came after House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Warsaw to meet with the prime minister of Poland and officials from Ukraine to discuss the ongoing war.

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McCarthy was joined on the trip by Republican Whip Steve Scalise and six other Republicans, as well as Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice of New York and Stephanie Murphy of Florida.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also visited Poland in March with a bipartisan group of senators and met with Ukrainian refugees and aid workers near the border.

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In April, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin became the top officials of President Joe Biden's administration to visit with Zelensky in Ukraine.

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Priest Andrii Gavalin presides over the funeral of Eugene Bogdanov, 35, in Bucha, Ukraine, on May 10. Bogdanov went missing two months ago. His wife, Natalia Bogdanova, was searching for him throughout the Kyiv and Bucha regions when his body was found at a morgue in Belaya Tserkov on May 9. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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