McCain To Lead Delegation To Ukraine

The Arizona senator is returning to Kiev for the second time since the crisis erupted, just days ahead of a referendum on the future of the Ukrainian province of Crimea

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will lead a large bipartisan delegation to Ukraine Thursday to meet with government leaders as the Russian occupation of Crimea continues and Crimeans prepare to vote in referendeum on seceeding from Kiev.

“They’re traveling to Ukraine show Congress’ support for the interim government and for the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for freedom, democracy and territorial integrity,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told The Daily Beast.

The delegation will also include Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

In a short interview, Whitehouse said the primary purpose of the trip was to “learn more about the circumstances on the ground.”

“It’s always a pleasure and an education to travel with John,” said the two-term Rhode Island Democrat.

McCain and Murphy traveled to Kiev in December at the height of the protests in Maidan, Kiev’s main square, which eventually led to the collapse of the government of former President Viktor Yanukovich.

Members of Congress will meet Wednesday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who is in Washington to meet with President Obama at the White House. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to mark up legislation Wednesday afternoon as well that would provide aid to the new Ukrainian government and provide for sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Crimea.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, was an early supporter of tough sanctions against Russia and has been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis. He is calling for a host of penalties to pressure Vladimir Putin to reverse course in Ukraine, in addition to the sanctions currently under consideration.