Mitch McConnell leads GOP delegation to Kyiv and meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky - as he calls on Senate to pass $40B assistance package

  • McConnell and three other GOP senators paid a surprise visit to Kyiv Saturday
  • Video shows Zelensky welcoming delegation on street of the capital city
  • Ukrainian president called visit 'a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine'
  • McConnell said this week that the Senate should immediately pass $40B aid bill 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday led a delegation of Republican lawmakers to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Video shared by Zelensky shows him greeting the GOP delegation on a street in Kyiv, which remains firmly in Ukrainian control nearly two months after Russia launched its invasion of the country.

The video showed McConnell, who represents the state of Kentucky, and senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas greeting Zelensky. 

McConnell said on Thursday that the Senate needs to pass a new aid package for Ukraine immediately, after the House of Representatives this week approved $40 billion in new assistance for Kyiv.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in Kyiv on Saturday

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (center) in a statement called the delegation's visit 'a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine'

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

However, Republican Senators John Kennedy of Louisiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky have put holds on the legislation despite bipartisan support for the measure.

Paul wants special oversight of the money to prevent fraud. He is proposing an amendment to appoint a special inspector general to oversee the spending.

The trip to Ukraine by McConnell's delegation was not announced in advance for security reasons. 

Zelensky in a statement called the delegation's visit 'a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.' 

'Thank you for your leadership in helping us fight not only for our country, but also for democratic values ​​and freedoms.' 

Meanwhile, Kyiv and Moscow's forces are engaged in a grinding battle for the country's eastern industrial heartland.

Russian troops are withdrawing from around Ukraine's second-largest city after bombarding it for weeks, the Ukrainian military said Saturday.

The trip by McConnell's delegation was not announced in advance for security reasons

McConnell visited Kyiv after saying that the Senate needs to pass a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine immediately

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

Ukraine's general staff said the Russians were pulling back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on guarding supply routes, while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern Donetsk province in order to 'deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.'

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was 'entering a new - long-term - phase of the war.'

Zelensky said Ukrainians were doing their 'maximum' to drive out the Russian invaders and that the outcome of the war would depend on support from Europe and other allies.

'No one today can predict how long this war will last,' Zelensky said in his nightly video address late Friday.

Tensions between the US and Russia reached new heights over the weekend, as officials in Moscow issued bombastic rhetoric over Finland's bid to join the NATO security alliance. 

Ukrainian servicemen of the Territorial Defence Forces fire an anti-tank grenade launcher as they take part in a training exercise in Dnipropetrovsk region on Saturday

Ukrainian Army soldiers walk past a burning natural gas terminal on Friday on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine

A formal announcement of Finland's intention to apply for NATO membership is expected on Sunday.  

President Joe Biden held a joint call Friday with the leaders of Finland and Sweden, which is also exploring NATO membership in the face of Russian fury.

According to a White House statement, Biden on the call 'underscored his support for NATO´s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements.' 

Duma defense committee deputy chairman Aleksey Zhuravlyov told Russian state media: 'If Finland wants to join this bloc, then our goal is absolutely legitimate - to question the existence of this state. This is logical.

'If the United States threatens our state, it's fine: here is the Sarmat [Satan-2 missile] for you, and there will be nuclear ashes from you if you think that Russia should not exist.

'And Finland says that it is at one with the USA. Well, get in line,' said Zhuravlyov.

'The Finns in general should be grateful to Russia for their statehood, for the fact that Finland exists as a country.'

Mitch McConnell leads GOP delegation to Kyiv and meets with Zelensky

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