Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) visited Kyiv on Thursday, making them the first known US officials to travel to Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24.
According to The New York Times, the visit was planned at the last minute, and the two lawmakers were invited by the Ukrainian government with just a day’s notice. Daines canceled a trip to Eastern Europe to go to Ukraine, and Spartz, who was born in Ukraine, planned an unofficial visit at a later date but decided to join Daines.
The trip comes as the Biden administration is reportedly considering sending a high-level official to Ukraine. Sources told Politico that President Biden or Vice President Harris could potentially make the trip, but said it’s more likely that cabinet members such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will go.
Daines and Spartz’s visit was organized by Anton Herashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. Herashchenko said he hoped the trip would inspire more US lawmakers to travel to Ukraine and vote to provide Kyiv with more weapons.
Since Russia invaded, the Biden administration has pledged over $2.5 billion in new military aid for Kyiv. On Wednesday, President Biden announced a new $800 million weapons package for Ukraine that includes howitzers for the first time. Arming Ukraine has strong support in Congress, and US lawmakers have been pressing Biden to send heavier equipment.
During their visit, Daines and Spartz visited the sites of alleged Russian war crimes in the suburbs of Kyiv and called for the Ukrainians to be sent more weapons. “I think we should be providing the lethal aid that they need to win this war,” Daines said.