Zelensky urges US to designate Russia a ‘terrorist state’ after McConnell visit

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took three Republican senators on a surprise trip to Kyiv on Saturday for a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – where he called on the United States to nominate Russia as a ” terrorist state”.

“I believe this visit demonstrates once again…the strength of the ties between the nations of Ukraine and the United States,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address, even as a bipartisan bill to send $40 billion in Additional aid stalled in Congress – while Finland and Sweden moved closer to NATO membership.

The GOP visit, the latest in a series of high-profile U.S. trips to the war-torn country as the Russian invasion continues, was “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from Congress.” of the United States and the American people,” Zelensky wrote on his official Instagram account.

“Thank you for your leadership in helping us fight not only for our country, but also for democratic values ​​and freedoms,” the president added. “We really appreciate that.”

McConnell, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), made the trip just two days after fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky forced a shutdown of the huge military and humanitarian aid bill.

A senior Zelensky official wrote that the visit marked the imminent end of the deadlock in Congress.

“Today our state enjoys strong bipartisan and bicameral support from American friends,” Andrij Sybiha wrote on Facebook. “And the American people.”

President Biden is now among very few US officials to have met with leader Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Off/UPI/Shutterstock

President Biden is now one of the few top US officials to have yet braved the war zone for a face-to-face meeting with Zelensky. Even first lady Jill Biden slipped into Ukraine last week for an unannounced visit with Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska.

The Republicans’ trip came as Finland is set to join NATO, which neighbor Sweden is also considering.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the Finnish President that his plan to apply for NATO membership was “a mistake”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with Senator John Cornyn in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with Senator John Cornyn in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

‘Ending the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,’ Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, according to the Kremlin’s call record. .

But Niinistö countered that Putin had only himself to blame – because his invasion of Ukraine had “changed Finland’s security environment”, the BBC reported. Russia cut Finland’s electricity supply on Friday as news of its expected NATO bid spread.

A Putin ally responded with fury – and a threat of nuclear retaliation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine” from the United States.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Off/UPI/Shutterstock

“Finns in general should be grateful to Russia for their statehood, for the fact that Finland exists as a country,” Aleksey Zhuravlyov, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, told the Mirror. .

“If the United States threatens our state, that’s fine: here is the Sarmat [Satan-2] for you, and there will be nuclear ashes of you if you think Russia should not exist,” Zhuravlyov continued. “And Finland says it is one with the United States. Well, line up.

The Satan-2 is a ballistic missile capable of carrying 10 to 15 nuclear warheads, with an estimated destructive power of three megatons each.

A handout photo made available by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows a United States Congressional delegation led by Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (C) arriving for a meeting in Kyiv (kyiv), Ukraine, May 14, 2022.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not comment on the temporarily stalled bill to send $40 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Russian state television recently displayed a chilling graph showing the number of seconds it would take for a ballistic missile to reach London, Paris and Berlin, NBC News reported.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained that Western sanctions amounted to a declaration of war.

“The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us,” Lavrov said in a speech marking the 80th day of the Russian invasion.

“We did everything to avoid a direct confrontation, but now that the challenge has been issued, of course we accept it,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
The administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened Finland with nuclear war if it joins NATO.
Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin swimming pool photo via AP

Back in the war zone, Ukraine “appears to have won the battle for Kharkiv”, said a US think tank.

Russian forces are withdrawing from their positions around Ukraine’s second-largest city “in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives and the limited availability of reinforcements”, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.

But retreating Russian units continued to bombard the eastern province of Donetsk, the Ukrainian army said on Saturday, while Ukraine launched attacks on Russian supply lines around the town of Izyum in the southeast of the country.

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the war was “entering a new — long-term — phase” as Ukrainian forces began moving into villages surrounding Kharkiv that had been under Russian control for weeks.

“Now it’s quiet in Kharkiv and people are gradually coming back,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov told the BBC.

Separately, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief said he expects the fighting to continue for months.

“The breaking point will be in the second half of August,” Major General Kyrylo Budanov told Sky News. “Most of the active combat actions will be completed by the end of this year.”

Budanov is known to have correctly predicted the timing of the initial invasion of Russia.

“We have been fighting Russia for eight years and we can say that this much publicized Russian powerhouse is a myth,” Budanov said. “It’s a horde of people with weapons.”

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