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Sen. Jim Risch meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on surprise weekend trip to Kyiv

June 27, 2022 Updated Tue., June 28, 2022 at 10:36 a.m.

Sen. Jim Risch, right, R-Idaho, meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday in Kyiv.  (Courtesy of Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
Sen. Jim Risch, right, R-Idaho, meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday in Kyiv. (Courtesy of Senate Foreign Relations Committee)

WASHINGTON – As Ukraine enters its fifth month of war following Russia’s invasion in February, an Idaho senator made an unannounced visit to meet with the embattled country’s president in Kyiv over the weekend.

Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital Sunday, the same day a Russian missile struck the city – killing at least one person and wounding several others, according to Ukrainian officials – after weeks of relative calm as fighting has been concentrated in the country’s east.

“It was an honor to meet with President Zelenskyy this weekend to discuss the ongoing Russian assault against Ukraine,” Risch said in a statement. “I’ve been in many war zones, but I’ve never been to one where I’ve seen people rebuilding as the war continues. The Ukrainian people are incredibly resilient, endlessly adaptable, and courageously willing to fight. We cannot let them down.”

Risch voted along with 38 other GOP senators in May to send $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. His fellow Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo was one of 11 Republicans who opposed the bill, citing its cost and a lack of budget offsets to avoid increasing the federal deficit. In his statement, Risch said he believes Ukraine can win the war if the United States supplies it with “what it needs, before it needs it.”

In a video Zelenskyy’s office posted on Instagram, Risch thanks the Ukrainian president for welcoming him and says, “I want to hear what you have to say.”

The senator also toured the Kyiv suburbs of Irpin and Hostomel, where journalists and human rights monitors found evidence of atrocities against civilians after Russian occupying forces were pushed back by Ukrainian troops.

“I was taken aback by the atrocities I saw firsthand in Irpin and Hostomel, and we cannot stand by and watch these happen again,” Risch said. “I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the Biden Administration uses the authorities Congress has given to provide President Zelenskyy and Ukrainian defense forces exactly what they need to end this conflict. Ukraine must win this fight.”

Risch also stopped in Rzeszow, Poland, where he met with members of the 82nd Airborne Division from Idaho. While no U.S. troops are stationed in Ukraine, the Biden administration has increased their presence in countries that are NATO allies.

Risch’s visit came as leaders from the world’s seven wealthiest democracies, known as the G-7, met in Austria to negotiate a global price cap on Russian oil to further squeeze the Kremlin. The leaders announced Sunday they had reached an agreement to stop buying Russian gold, a major source of revenue that was not targeted by earlier sanctions.

Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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