Bipartisan Delegation – Democratic Sens of New Hampshire. Gene Shaheen, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as well as Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Kevin Kramer of North Dakota and Roger Wicker of Mississippi – demanded. To reaffirm America’s commitment to the country as Russia mobilizes thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border.
Murphy told reporters by phone from Kiev that Ukraine remains focused on increased support from the US, but that the country is “battle-tested” and “ready.”
“If Putin thinks he will walk into central or western Ukraine without a significant fight, he has fundamentally misread the Ukrainian people and their preparedness,” the Connecticut Democrat said.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told CNN he expects the US delegation to make strong recommendations to Congress about increasing sanctions against Russia after Monday’s meeting.
The visit comes after a series of diplomatic meetings last week in which the US and NATO allies hoped that Russia would back down from its offensive towards neighboring Ukraine. But the talks failed to achieve any success, as Russia would not commit to descaling and US and NATO officials said Moscow’s main demands – including that NATO never accepted Ukraine into the alliance – were non-starters. .
CIA Director Bill Burns met with Zelensky last week during a previously scheduled visit, two sources familiar with his visit told CNN.
A US official said Burns consulted with intelligence counterparts amid concerns about further invasion of Ukraine by Russia. “He discussed the current assessment of the risk to Ukraine. While there, he had the opportunity to discuss the current situation and efforts to de-escalate tensions with President Zelensky.”
The CIA has long had a policy of not commenting on or publicly announcing the director’s visit.
“During this time of Russian provocation, it is more important than ever to assert our strong, bipartisan support for the sovereignty of Ukraine,” Klobuchar said in a statement on Monday.
That message was echoed by Vickers who said that Ukraine “is on the tangled frontier of the free world.”
“This sovereign nation deserves the steadfast support of our American friends during this dangerous and critical time,” he said.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefed a group of US lawmakers considering a trip to Ukraine, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Toria Nuland said.
“He will go through all aspects of policy with them and make sure they are up to date, both on diplomacy, but also on cost and our engagement with Ukrainians, who have been as rich and fulfilling as you. Learn, and ask them to carry messages of preparedness and unity,” she said at a briefing at the State Department.
US officials and European allies have warned that Moscow will face unprecedented economic consequences if it invades Ukraine further, but the Biden administration has so far indicated it will not use sanctions as a deterrent.
“If Russia wants to move forward with diplomacy, we are ready to do so in lockstep with our allies and partners. If Russia wants to go down the path of aggression and escalation, we are ready for that too, a Reaction with strong that would cut off their strategic position,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CBS on Sunday.
“Therefore, from our point of view, we are simultaneously pursuing deterrence and diplomacy, and we are clear and firm in that, again, fully united with the transatlantic community,” he said.
This story has been updated with comments from Sen. Chris Murphy and details of CIA Director Bill Burns’ visit to Ukraine.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.