Zelensky says he called for recognition of Russia as a ‘terrorist state’ in meeting with US Senate GOP delegation

McConnell said in a statement Saturday night that the delegation “just left Ukraine” and called it an “honour” to meet Zelensky and his senior advisers. McConnell was joined on the unannounced trip by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas.

McConnell and the other senators were the last US officials to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded the Eastern European country in late February.

The Kentucky Republican said in the statement that the delegation to Zelensky “reaffirmed” that the United States is fully behind Ukraine and will maintain our support until Ukraine wins this war. It is also essential that America does not stand alone.”

He continued: “It is completely in our national interest to help Ukraine achieve victory in this war and to help Ukraine and other countries deter other wars of aggression before they start.”

In his late night speech Saturday, Zelensky said he discussed with the delegation US support for Ukraine and tightening sanctions against Russia.

“I believe this visit demonstrates once again the strength of the bipartisan support for our state, the strength of the ties between the Ukrainian and American nations,” Zelensky said.

CNN previously reported that Zelensky has asked President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The Ukrainian president added that he “expressed gratitude for the historic decision to renew the Lend Lease program” during the GOP delegation’s visit.

Biden signed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act earlier this week. The new law, which relaxes some of the requirements for the US to loan or lease military equipment to Ukraine, was passed by a two-part majority in the US House and Senate. The sponsors said the legislation gives Biden much broader powers to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia and addresses how the US can get weapons to Ukraine more quickly.

Zelensky said on his Instagram account earlier Saturday that the GOP delegation’s visit “was a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine by the US Congress and the American people.”

He added on Instagram: “Thank you for your leadership to help us in our struggle, not only for our country, but also for democratic values ​​and freedoms. We really appreciate it.”

First lady Jill Biden makes unannounced trip to Ukraine
Two weeks ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the first congressional delegation to Ukraine since the outbreak of war. Pelosi, accompanied by several senior House Democrats, met with Zelensky in Kiev.
First lady Jill Biden met Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska last weekend in Uzhhorod on the Slovakian border at a converted school that now serves as temporary housing for displaced citizens. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Zelensky in Kiev last month.
Congress has been in the process of passing a roughly $40 billion relief bill that would provide Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. In a rare show of unity, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for a swift approval of the bill this week after the House proposed the measure in a bipartisan vote. However, the Senate effort was blocked by GOP Sen on Thursday. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has demanded changes to the law. The Senate is expected to pass the bill sometime next week, forcing Schumer to take procedural steps to address Paul’s objection before it is sent to President Joe Biden’s office.

A statement posted to Zelensky’s official website after the meeting with GOP senators noted that the Ukrainian leader “expressed hopes that the US Senate will immediately approve a package of additional funding to support the Ukrainian people”.

This story has been updated with additional details.

Daniella Diaz of CNN contributed to this report.

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