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After Rand Paul tanks $40 billion aid package, Mitch McConnell visits Ukraine

It's unclear exactly when the visit took place, and it was not announced ahead of time.

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led a delegation of Republicans to war-torn Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Video posted to Zelenskyy's Instagram account on Saturday shows McConnell, as well as Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas as part of the delegation. 

It's unclear when the visit took place or if the senators are still in Ukraine. 

"The visit of the US Senate delegation led by the leader of the Republican minority in the upper house of Congress (Mitch) McConnell is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people," a translation of the post Zelenskyy wrote in Ukranian said. "Thank you for your leadership in helping us fight not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms. We really appreciate it."

The visit comes just after Republican Senator Rand Paul stonewalled a $40 billion aid package meant to fortify Ukrainian forces fighting against the Russian invasion. Paul, the lone dissenting vote in the Senate, demanded a watchdog to track the money.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a separate delegation of high-profile Democrats to Ukraine two weeks ago ahead of a House vote approving the aid package Paul later tanked. 

Both McConnell and Pelosi's visits were unannounced, as was a Mother's Day visit by First Lady Jill Biden. The secret visits by high-level U.S. officials underscore the bipartisan support for Ukraine's sovereignty shared by Washington as well as the dangers of VIPs traveling to conflict areas. 

Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv has not been a major target of Russian attacks for several weeks, ever since a stiff Ukrainian resistance caused heavy losses for the invaders and forced Moscow to pull back troops to focus on an Eastern assault. 

But since then, Russian bombardments of the capital have at times coincided or come immediately after visits from Western leaders. 

In late April, Russian forces shelled Kyiv in their boldest assault since the withdrawal from the area two weeks earlier. The attack came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutterres was visiting. Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said the deadly strike was Russian President Vladimir Putin's  "middle finger" to the UN and to the West in general.

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