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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has welcomed to Kyiv a congressional delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Zelensky said on his Instagram account that the visit “is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people.”
He added: “Thank you for your leadership in helping us in our struggle not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms. We really appreciate it.”
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas were also seen meeting Zelensky in video and photos posted to the Ukrainian president’s social media accounts.
It’s unclear whether the meeting took place Saturday and whether the delegation is still in the Ukrainian capital.
McConnell and the other senators are the latest US officials to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded the eastern European nation in late February. Two weeks ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the first congressional delegation to Ukraine since war broke out. Pelosi, joined by several senior House Democrats, met with Zelensky in Kyiv.
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First lady Jill Biden met last weekend with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska in Uzhhorod at the Slovakian border at a converted school that now serves as temporary housing for displaced citizens. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Zelensky in Kyiv last month.
Congress has been in the process of trying to pass a roughly $40 billion aid bill that would provide Ukraine with military and humanitarian assistance. In a rare show of unity, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for swift passage of the bill this week, after the House had advanced the measure in a bipartisan vote. That Senate effort, however, was blocked Thursday by GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky who has demanded changes to the legislation. The Senate is now expected to pass the bill sometime next week, with Schumer forced to take procedural steps to overcome Paul’s objection, before sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko did not lay out any specific actions his country would take during an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax Saturday, but said it would operate in a way that ensures its own safety.

“It will be necessary to respond … by taking adequate precautionary measures that would ensure the viability of deterrence,” Grushko said, Reuters reported.

defense officials on Wednesday said they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin still intends to capture Kyiv in order to absorb the country as a new Russian state into its federation. 

Deputy Chief of the Main Operations Department of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Oleksiy Gromov, told reporters that Russia’s aim in concentrating its efforts in eastern and southern Ukraine is part of a bigger plan to take the entire nation.

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Russia withdrew its efforts to take the capital city of Kyiv in late March after it failed to make any major advances following a months-worth of attempts to take the city from three different directions. 

A woman walks by a metro station in downtown Kyiv, as Russia celebrates Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 9, 2022.  (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The Kremlin then refocused its efforts in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions to the east and announced its aim to take over Ukraine’s regions along the Black Sea – a move that if successful would not only give Russia port city domination but a path to target neighboring Moldova. 

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“We consider his attempts to take control of the territory of Odesa, Mykolayiv and partly Zaporizhzhya oblasts, create a land corridor to the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, capture the territory of central Ukraine, capture Kyiv, stage re-elections,” Gromov said during a press briefing in reference to Putin’s objectives.

A woman walks by a metro station in downtown Kyiv, as Russia celebrates Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The deputy chief said Moscow will attempt to rely on pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and eastern Moldova in the separatist region of Transnistria to help it create a new state and incorporate it into Russia – a move that would reunite former Soviet Union territory under Moscow’s rule. 

Gromov’s warnings Wednesday were the starkest yet to be outlined by Ukrainian authorities, though officials have been warning against these suspicions for weeks. 

TOPSHOT – Ukrainian soldiers rest at their position near Lyman, eastern Ukraine, on April 28, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images) (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Head of the Kyiv City Military Administration Mykola Zhirnov said last month that authorities expect Russia will take a second stab at Kyiv and asked that all women, children and elderly persons do not yet return to their homes in the areas surrounding the capital, Ukrainian news outlet Pravda reported. 

Similarly, Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko warned in early April “The fact that the enemy has withdrawn from Kyiv doesn’t mean that they have relinquished their desire to capture the capital.”

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