Two Republican members of Congress traveled to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev of Thursday, becoming the first known US officials to visit the country since Russia's Feb.24 invasion.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) made what was described in The New York Times as a last minute visit at the invitation of the Ukrainian government, with just a day's notice. Spartz is the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, and has been urging the Biden administration to reestablish a strong diplomatic presence center in Lviv, Western Ukraine, to help coordinate in the crisis.
The pair of US lawmakers toured Bucha, following on the heels of Biden on Tuesday controversially labelling Russian military actions there and elsewhere on ongoing "genocide".
Sen. Daines said after visiting mass graves: "There is indisputable evidence of Putin’s war crimes everywhere—the images of shallow mass graves filled with civilians, women and children are heart wrenching," according to a statement. "America and the world need to know about Putin’s atrocities against the innocent people of Ukraine now, not after time has passed and the aftermath of evil and bloodshed have been cleaned up."
Daines additionally told the Times, "Nothing can substitute for actually being here, seeing it first-hand, spending time with the people and leaders here in Ukraine who have been horribly affected by this war."
The two also took the opportunity to issue an appeal for more Western weapons for the Ukrainians:
"The sooner we can provide Ukraine with the lethal aid they need to win this war, the sooner we will end the war crimes," Sen. Daines said.
Just a fact. The first US politicians who visited #Ukraine since the Russian invasion began are the US Sen. from #Montana Steve Daines & the US Rep. of the #Ukrainian descent from #Indiana Victoria Spartz. Both are #Conservatives. Source: @NYTimes. https://t.co/YagqypDblU pic.twitter.com/tJsUn1Huoz— Victor Kovalenko (@MrKovalenko) April 15, 2022
The quick end of week visit to Ukraine could be a precursor to the White House dispatching high-ranking officials, likely the Secretary of State and Defense Secretary.
As we detailed earlier, the US administration is in current discussions on sending a senior admin official to Kiev, following UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's surprise trip last week. Also this week Polish President Andrzej Duda and the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia did the same, where they met with Volodymyr Zelensky. It appears the White House needs a 'symbolic' show of solidarity in Ukraine's capital too.