US Senator John McCain will travel to Ukraine over the weekend, a trip that will make him the highest-ranking US official to visit the ex-Soviet republic since protests erupted there last month over Kiev’s move to tighten ties with Moscow, a US website reported Friday.
“Senator McCain is traveling to Ukraine to meet with government officials, opposition leaders and civil society at this critical time as Ukrainians struggle for their future,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told The Daily Beast.
McCain, a veteran Republican lawmaker and vociferous Kremlin critic, was set to leave for Kiev on Friday evening and remain in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday and Sunday, according to the report. He will be joined there Sunday by Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, according to The Daily Beast.
Protests in Ukraine, focused in Kiev, have been raging since President Viktor Yanukovych’s government last month pulled out of preparations to sign landmark political and trade deals with the European Union, sparking widespread indignation.
The government said the move was necessary to boost economic ties with neighboring Russia.
In a statement this week, McCain called Ukrainian authorities’ use of force against protesters “appalling” conduct that “violates the most basic universal rights.”
“If Ukraine’s government thinks that brute force and the politics of fear can see it through the current crisis, it is woefully mistaken,” McCain said. “More and more Ukrainians are showing that they are no longer afraid. Those brave men and women should know that they are not alone.”
Russia has repeatedly criticized what it describes as outside interference in the tense standoff between Ukrainian authorities and protesters.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a news conference in Moscow on Friday that Ukrainian society needs to overcome a “tectonic fault” that threatens “the stability in the country and the very existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state.”
Russia wants “our Ukrainian friends to deal with all their problems on their own, to come to a single consensus decision and to assure that there were no attempts [on behalf of foreign nations] to interfere and to deprive Ukraine of its sovereignty,” Medvedev said.