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Pence makes surprise visit to Ukraine, meets with Zelenskyy

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who announced his candidacy for president this month, made the surprise visit to Ukraine on Thursday.
Pence makes surprise visit to Ukraine, meets with Zelenskyy
Posted at 11:51 AM, Jun 29, 2023

Former Vice President Mike Pence became the first Republican presidential candidate to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Pence, who announced his candidacy for president earlier this month, made the surprise visit to the country on Thursday. 

An adviser to Pence said the former vice president was briefed on alleged human rights violations and the current security situation during the visit. 

Pence lauded the heroism of the Ukrainian soldiers and citizens amid attacks from Russia. 

"To see families whose homes were literally shelled in the midst of an unconscionable and unprovoked Russian invasion — just steels my resolve to do my part, to continue to call for strong American support for our Ukrainian friends and allies," Pence told NBC News. 

SEE MORE: How war in Ukraine is shaping the 2024 Republican presidential race

Republicans have continually been asked about their support for Ukraine during the campaign. It can be seen as a challenging topic as a majority of Republican voters believe the Russia-Ukraine conflict represents a threat to U.S. vital interests, according to a Gallup survey.

Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the primary race, would not commit to supporting Ukraine when asked about the conflict during a CNN town hall event. Instead, he claimed he would be able to negotiate an end to the war within one day of becoming president. Trump said he would do that by meeting with both Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is polling second to Trump nationally, had to walk back statements about Ukraine earlier this year. He initially likened the conflict to a "territorial dispute" that is not of vital U.S. interest. After facing backlash, especially from some in his own party, DeSantis said he was specifically talking about the disputed eastern Donbas region, not the overall conflict. 

As for their main Democratic rival, President Joe Biden, he has continued to express support for Ukraine, often communicating with Zelenskyy about the country's needs. 

The U.S. has already committed more than $40 billion in security assistance for Ukraine since the invasion began in February 2022. 

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