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Pence Meets With Zelensky in Ukraine, Highlighting G.O.P. Cut up Over Struggle

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Former Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced go to to Ukraine on Thursday, a detour from the presidential marketing campaign path that was supposed to focus on his unwavering assist for the nation because it battles Russia and to distinction it with the views of two key Republican rivals: Donald J. Trump and Ron DeSantis.

Each Mr. Trump, the previous president, and Mr. DeSantis, the Florida governor, have criticized U.S. involvement within the protection of Ukraine. The US has supplied greater than $40 billion in army and humanitarian assist.

Throughout his 12-hour keep, with an NBC Information crew accompanying him, Mr. Pence met with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and toured a mass burial web site, inserting flowers at a memorial, in response to an adviser.

For greater than 16 months, Ukraine has been combating to repel the Russian invasion, in a warfare that has claimed the lives of a whole bunch of hundreds of civilians and troopers.

“Look, the warfare right here in Ukraine shouldn’t be our warfare, however freedom is our struggle,” Mr. Pence advised NBC News. He’s the primary Republican candidate to go to Ukraine in the course of the 2024 marketing campaign. President Biden was in Kyiv in February.

In his nightly tackle to his nation, Mr. Zelensky thanked Mr. Pence for his assist and stated that American assist for Ukraine was important.

Mr. Pence added to NBC Information, “I feel we’re advancing not solely the pursuits of freedom, however let me be clear, my different message is we’re advancing our nationwide curiosity.”

The present of solidarity by Mr. Pence, who was Mr. Trump’s vp, contrasted sharply with the G.O.P.’s high tier of presidential candidates.

Throughout a CNN town hall in Might, Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner, refused to say whether or not he needed Ukraine to win the warfare.

He additionally wouldn’t name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a warfare prison, saying that doing so would make it tougher to finish the hostilities. Mr. Trump did say Mr. Putin had “made a nasty mistake” by invading Ukraine.

Mr. DeSantis, a former Home member, has aligned himself extra carefully with Mr. Trump on U.S. assist for Ukraine.

In an announcement to Fox Information in March earlier than formally coming into the race, Mr. DeSantis stated that defending Ukraine’s borders was not a vital U.S. interest and that policymakers ought to as an alternative focus consideration at residence. He was responding to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson, the conservative commentator who was later fired by the community.

At the moment, Mr. DeSantis was criticized by some hawks in the G.O.P. for describing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.” In an try to make clear his remarks, he later called Mr. Putin a “war criminal” who needs to be “held accountable.”

Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and James C. McKinley Jr. contributed reporting.

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