Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday visited Ukraine, a show of support for the European nation under attack from Russia as Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination have been divided over America’s role in the ongoing conflict.
Pence met privately with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky behind closed doors at the presidential palace in Kyiv, telling the Ukrainian leader that his resolve was stronger than ever to support the country.
While in the capital city, Pence visited a children’s center caring for Ukrainian youth who were from occupied territories or had been forcefully taken to Russia, paid his respects to the Memory Wall of Fallen Defenders of Ukraine, and toured the St. Michael’s Orthodox church.
Pence also made stops at three different cities and villages — Bucha, Irpin and Moschun — outside of Kyiv that had seen heavy destruction from shelling and gruesome violence against civilians under Russian occupation last year. He toured the wreckage, met with locals and laid flowers at memorials for those killed in the war.
“The American people are praying with you, supporting you in Ukraine,” he told families that he met in Irpin.
The former vice president has been a strong advocate for US support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, arguing that it’s in America’s best interests. The issue has created a rift among the 2024 Republican candidates. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have also urged continued US backing for Ukraine, while former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the top polling candidates in the primary field, have questioned US aid for Ukraine.
Pence’s visit on Thursday isn’t the first time he has traveled to the country since the war started. In March 2022, long before he announced his candidacy, Pence went to the Ukrainian border and met with refugees displaced from their homes in escaping the violence.
Both trips were organized by Samaritan’s Purse, an American evangelical disaster relief charity that’s run by pastor Franklin Graham. Pence and his wife, former second lady Karen Pence, have volunteered before with the organization.
The war in Ukraine has raged on for more than a year now. Kyiv’s counteroffensive is underway while Russia deals with the aftermath of a short-lived mutiny by the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary group, that had posed the greatest challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power in more than two decades. Russian missiles this week struck the eastern city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, and a nearby village, killing at least 11 people and injuring dozens.
Pence has warned that Russia may not stop at Ukraine and threaten NATO allies, resulting in America having to send military troops.
“Make no mistake: This is not America's war. But if we falter in our commitment to providing the support to the people of Ukraine to defend their freedom, our sons and daughters may soon be called upon to defend ours,” he said in a February speech at the University of Texas at Austin on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He has also called Putin a “war criminal” and said there’s “no room for Putin apologists in the Republican Party.”