Two US politicians make last-minute trip to Kyiv

Impromptu trip comes as President Joe Biden faces pressure to send senior officials to Ukraine

Steve Daines, US senator from Montana, and Ukrainian-born Congresswoman Victoria Spartz made a last-minute trip to Kyiv. Office of Senator Steve Daines
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

Two members of the US Congress made a last-minute trip to Kyiv in a show of support to Ukraine, the first American officials to visit the country since Russia launched its invasion in February.

Senator Steve Daines and Ukrainian-born Congresswoman Victoria Spartz, both Republicans, were invited to meet Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and Bucha, the site that has prompted US President Joe Biden to condemn Russian actions as "genocide".

Mr Daines said it was important to demonstrate the US's support of Ukraine.

"I’m proud to help show that America stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom," he said in a statement his office shared with The National.

Ms Spartz, who had planned an unofficial trip to the country, joined him.

Photos provided by Mr Daines's office on Friday show the Republican senator touring the mass graves in Bucha, where hundreds of bodies have been recovered since the retreat of Russian forces.

"There is indisputable evidence of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war crimes everywhere – the images of shallow mass graves filled with civilians, women and children are heart wrenching," Mr Daines said.

"America and the world need to know about Putin’s atrocities against the innocent people of Ukraine now."

While European leaders have visited Ukraine since the February 24 invasion, the Biden administration has yet to send a senior official to the country, although the President did go to Poland.

"We're making that decision now," Mr Biden replied when asked if his administration would send officials to Ukraine.

But Mr Biden himself is not expected to visit the war-torn nation. The White House press secretary said as recently as Monday that there are no plans to send the president to Ukraine.

And, in contrast with its European allies, the White House has also yet to move diplomats back into Ukraine or provide a timetable to do so.

In a video address last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed foreign diplomats to return to work in Kyiv.

Ms Spartz sent a letter to the US State Department on Tuesday urging for the return of diplomats to the western city of Lviv for better communication with the Ukrainian government.

"As the single largest provider of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, it is past time that the United States follow our European allies in kind," she wrote in a letter shared on Twitter.

Ms Spatz's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Holly Aguirre

Updated: April 16, 2022, 8:14 AM