Presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence visited Ukraine on Thursday, becoming the first contender to do so in the Republican primary campaign.
Pence met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and was briefed on potential human rights violations, where Russians are allegedly abducting Ukrainian children, according to a Pence advisor. He also reportedly “visited the destroyed Romaniv Bridge” and was later briefed on civilian evacuation efforts during the March 2022 invasion.
“For me it was important to be here to better understand what the people of Ukraine have endured, the mindless violence that was perpetrated on them in an unprovoked invasion by the Russian military and the progress that they’ve made in pushing back that military,” Pence told NBC News. “It’s steeled my resolve, and it’s made me better equipped to be able to go home as I speak to the American people about the vital importance of American support to repel Russian aggression.”
🚨 Mike Pence is visiting Ukraine
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) June 29, 2023
His visit corresponds with a long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive and an attempted coup by the Wagner Group in Russia. The former vice president has differentiated himself in the primary race as a pro-Ukraine candidate. (RELATED: REPORT: McCarthy Says He’s On Board To Expunge Trump’s Two Impeachments)
“As Russia continues its unconscionable war of aggression to Ukraine, I believe that conservatives must make it clear that Putin must stop and Putin will pay. There can be no room in the conservative movement for apologists to Putin. There is only room in this movement for champions of freedom,” Pence said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation in October.
The U.S. has been a large backer of Ukraine’s effort against Russian invasion, spending over $110 billion over the course of the war. President Joe Biden has continuously reaffirmed the United States’ support while attempting to reiterate perceived weakness of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Candidates competing with Pence, including former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who currently are first and second in Republican polling, have been less explicit with their support. The former president has repeatedly made the claim that he “would have a peace deal negotiated within 24 hours,” voicing support for an armistice rather than backing Ukraine unconditionally. DeSantis has made comments in the past about the war being a “territorial dispute” but has not laid out a comprehensive plan on the issue beyond calling for a cease-fire.