Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie paid a surprise visit to Ukraine and met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday.
Christie, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, has been critical of former President Donald Trump’s candidacy and populist political platform, which has included skepticism of continued American financial support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Christie visited Kyiv on Thursday and held a meeting with Zelenskyy; he also visited locations in the city’s suburbs that were occupied by Russia in 2022.
“I had a meeting with a member of the Republican Party, former Governor of New Jersey, Christopher Christie,” Zelenskyy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It is very important that Mr. Christie began his visit to Ukraine with a visit to Bucha to see with his own eyes the threat to freedom and to everyone in the world posed by Russian aggression.”
Bucha is a city in the Kyiv metropolitan area that was occupied by Russia between February and April of 2022, during which time hundreds of civilians were allegedly killed by the Russian military. Christie, accompanied by Ukrainian protective security, visited Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs to observe the effects of the invasion, according to The New York Times.
In photos that Zelenskyy posted, Christie was seen holding a meeting with Zelenskyy and his staff, in the same room used by foreign leaders to hold their bilateral meetings with Zelenskyy. Christie was also seen laying a wreath at a children’s memorial, according to an Associated Press photograph shared by the NYT.
Apart from Christie, only former Vice President Mike Pence has visited Ukraine among current Republican presidential candidates.
“It was an honor to meet with President @ZelenskyyUa in Ukraine and see firsthand the heroism Ukrainians have displayed in their fight against Russia. America has never moved forward by ignoring the rest of the world. We can’t start now,” Christie tweeted.
On the train to Kyiv from Lviv, the major route for high-profile visitors owing to the closure of Ukraine’s airspace, Christie criticized Trump’s views on the war in Ukraine, saying that “he really likes strongmen,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the NYT. He added that he would increase U.S. support for Ukraine, a position strongly criticized by other candidates such as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
Opinion polling regarding the U.S. support for Ukraine, for which $113 billion has been appropriated by Congress, has varied. While 62% of Americans believe that Ukraine should be able to regain its territory from Russia, according to a Gallup poll in June, a new poll released on Friday revealed that 55% of Americans believe that Congress should not authorize more funding for Ukraine.
“I wish you political luck,” Anatolii Fedoruk, the Mayor of Bucha, told Christie upon his visit, the NYT reported. Christie is currently polling at 2.2% in the Republican presidential primary, according to RealClearPolitics.
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