Zelensky welcomes U.S. Senate delegation led by McConnell to Kyiv in surprise visit

LONDON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., led a delegation of Republican senators Saturday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

Zelensky shared a video of the surprise meeting online, calling the visit a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.

The footage shows Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, walking alongside McConnell in Ukraine's capital.

"Thank you for your leadership in helping us in our struggle not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms," Zelensky wrote. "We really appreciate it."

President Volodymyr Zelensky stands with Republican leaders in a carpeted state room in front of two American and two Ukrainian flags, with two Ukrainians in military drab at either end of the lineup...
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, meets with, starting second from left, Sen. John Barrasso, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. John Cornyn in Kyiv. (Andrij Sybiha/Facebook)

On Thursday, McConnell encouraged "both sides" of the Senate to immediately pass an additional aid package for Ukraine after the House of Representatives approved $40 billion in assistance for the war-torn country.

"I strongly support the next package of lethal military assistance, which the House has passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"I hope the Senate can reach an agreement to consider and pass this legislation today. The Ukrainians need it. We need to do it today."

However, the approval by the Senate was delayed and pushed to next week after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., defied the leaders of both parties and objected to the deal.

“No matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America,” Paul said. “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.”

McConnell, however, pushed back: “Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy."

Zelensky and McConnell shaking hands
Zelensky and McConnell shake hands in Kyiv. (Instagram)

"It bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs," he added.

On May 1, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also visited Kyiv, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the capital, with a delegation of Democratic lawmakers.

That group included Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.; Jason Crow, D-Colo.; Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Bill Keating, D-Mass.


What happened last week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

Where are Russian forces attacking Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.