Mitch McConnell is leading a Senate GOP delegation to meet in Kiev

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with a US Senate delegation led by minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-K) in Kiev on Saturday, calling the visit “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the US Congress and the American people.” The office said.

In a video posted by Politico journalist Christopher Miller, Republican Sense. Susan Collins (Maine), John Barasso (Yo.) And John Cornin (Tex.) Were also greeted by Jelensky on the streets of Kiev.

“Russia is committing genocide against the people of Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a press release announcing the senators’ visit. “Europe has not seen such a crime since World War II.”

He cited “the special role of the United States” in imposing sanctions on Russia and said he was waiting for further sanctions on Russia’s banking sector. “Besides, we believe that Russia should be officially recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelensky said.

Officials with Republican senators did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Saturday.

The visit comes as Congress prepares to approve about 40 40 billion in additional military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, surpassing President Biden’s $ 33 billion request and extending a new lifeline to Kiev as Moscow invades the south and east of the country. The passage of this measure, approved by the House earlier this week, would bring the total amount of Ukrainian aid provided by Congress to more than $ 53 billion since the start of the February 24 invasion.

The list of anti-Ukrainian Republican lawmakers is growing rapidly

The Senate is likely to pursue the case with the House, but that effort was delayed until next week after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kai) objected to a speedy vote Thursday on aid to Ukraine, easing bipartisan pressure to maintain stable aid. Kyiv Paul, who has faced a backlash but is adamant in his decision, was able to single-handedly block the progress of the package because unanimous consent is needed to quickly pass such a national bill in the Senate. Now, the chamber must jump through all the usual systematic hoops.

Rand Paul, the only Senate holdout, postponed a vote on Ukraine aid next week

Zelensky hopes the Senate will quickly approve an additional 40 billion package of additional funding for Ukraine as Ukrainian officials negotiate with Russia to remove 60 “seriously injured” people and doctors from the blocked Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Zelensky described the talks as “very difficult” at the end of Friday, adding: “We do not stop trying to save all our people from Mariupol and Azovstal.”

Despite fighting in Mariupol, Ukrainian forces have succeeded in Kharkiv, pushing Russian troops northward into the border and recapturing towns and villages in the area, a U.S. defense official told reporters Friday. The Washington-based think tank, The Institute for the Study of War, assessed that Ukraine “appears to have won the Kharkiv war,” adding that the Kremlin may have decided to withdraw completely from its position around the city. And limited Russian reinforcements.

McConnell’s delegation’s unannounced visit to Kiev has continued a parade of visits to Ukraine in recent weeks by U.S. and allied government officials, lawmakers and dignitaries to show support for the war-torn country and its troubled leader.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Zelensky on April 24, the highest-level visit by a U.S. delegation since the start of the war. On April 30, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Led a delegation from the Kiev Democratic Congress to talks with Zelensky. Pelosi promised the President of Ukraine that the United States was committed to “standing by you until the end of the war.”

First Lady Jill Biden crossed the border into Ukraine last weekend, traveling to an active war zone in a rare move for the wife of the current president. Biden entered the country from Slovakia on Mother’s Day and met with First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenskar, who has not been seen in public since the start of the Russian invasion.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day,” Biden said before starting a closed-door meeting between the two first ladies. “I think it’s important to show the people of Ukraine that this war must end, and that this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine.”

Amy Cheng and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.

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