In this photo provided by the Office of the President of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy poses for a picture with a delegation of Republican senators from the U.S. Congress, headed by Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday led a delegation of Republican senators to war-ravaged Ukraine.
Video showed Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) walking with McConnell in the Ukrainian capital alongside President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy called the visit a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from Congress and the American people, according to a readout published by the Ukrainian Presidential Administration.
The president said Ukraine is defending not only its own state but all democratic values and freedoms and the right of people to freely choose their own future.
“Russia is committing genocide against the Ukrainian people,” Zelenskyy told the delegation. "[Russian President Vladimir Putin] commits war crimes that horrify the whole world — torture, mass executions, rape. Europe has not seen such crimes since World War II,” he said.
Zelenskyy hosted the delegation inside the House of Chimaeras, which is on the premises of the presidential administration.
The visit comes as a $40 billion aid package to fortify Ukraine’s defenses against the Russian invasion stalled in the Senate following Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) demands for a watchdog to track the money.
Before the Senate left Thursday, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made a rare bipartisan request on the floor, offering Paul a vote on his amendment to the package in exchange for moving more swiftly on the aid. But Paul rejected their request and instead wanted to change the underlying bill.
Passage of the aid package is now expected next week.
In a statement released later Saturday, McConnell confirmed the senators had left Ukraine after seeing “firsthand the courage, unity, and resolve of the Ukrainian people.”
“The Ukrainians are fighting bravely against a deranged invader and have already succeeded beyond skeptics’ wildest dreams. They are willing and determined to keep fighting to victory. Ukraine is not asking anybody else to fight their fight. They only ask for the tools they need for self-defense,” McConnell said.
“Our delegation reaffirmed to President Zelenskyy that the United States stands squarely behind Ukraine and will sustain our support until Ukraine wins this war. ... Defending the principle of sovereignty, promoting stability in Europe, and imposing costs on Russia’s naked aggression have a direct and vital bearing on America’s national security and vital interests,” he added.
Two weeks ago House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.
Pelosi led the previously unannounced trip with a group of senior House Democrats, including Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rules Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
Christopher Miller contributed to this report.