Minnesota U.S Sen. Amy Klobuchar traveled with a bipartisan delegation of senators to Ukraine on Monday to show solidarity with that country as the threat of a Russian invasion looms.
Klobuchar and six of her U.S. Senate colleagues met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other government officials in Kyiv to discuss the situation on the ground. Afterward, they held a press conference where they reiterated their support for Ukraine and warned of sanctions if Russia attacks.
"Their population needs to know that they've got friends out there," Klobuchar said in an interview with the Star Tribune from Ukraine. "The second piece was as a message to Russia that we — from Democrats to Republicans of way different ideologies — are united in that, if they invade there will be consequences."
Tensions between the two countries are reaching an all-time high, with Russia amassing an estimated 100,000 troops near the border, sparking a security crisis in Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian officials have said there's evidence that Russia was behind a massive cyberattack last week, which knocked out several government websites.
Russia has denied involvement in the attack and says they have no plans to invade Ukraine. But the White House has said U.S. intelligence shows the Russian government has sent operatives into eastern Ukraine for potential sabotage efforts.
"In the United States, the cause of freedom knows no political boundaries," said Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio who was part of the delegation. "We join with our allies in the free world in making clear our support for Ukraine in response to unwarranted and unprovoked Russian aggression."
Klobuchar is a co-sponsor on legislation unveiled by Senate Democrats last week that would impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, senior military officials and the banking sector if Russia acts against Ukraine.
The legislation also asks the Department of Defense and the State Department to authorize $500 million in emergency security assistance to Ukraine in the event Russia invades.
Last week, the chamber voted down a bill from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to sanction businesses and other entities involved in a Russian gas pipeline to Germany. Republicans argued the bill would send a strong message to Putin, but a majority of Democrats said it would hurt its alliances in Europe at a sensitive moment. Klobuchar said the pipeline provides strategic leverage to help stave off an invasion in Ukraine.
Klobuchar previously traveled to the country on New Year's Eve in 2016 to show support for Ukraine with Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham as members of the Armed Services Committee.
Traveling on Monday were four Democrats — Klobuchar and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal — along with three Republicans, Sens. Kevin Cramer, Roger Wicker and Portman.
"One of the reasons we're all here together, because I think you all know we don't always agree on everything, is to make that point," Klobuchar said at Monday's press conference in Ukraine. "This isn't just, 'Oh hold hands, and we're happy to be here, and we're wearing our Ukraine buttons.' ... it is also to say that we stand united on moving ahead on legislation and responding if this is to come to bear."
She said the legislation imposing sanctions on Russia will be expedited in the U.S. Senate if Ukraine is invaded. Klobuchar emphasized the large Ukrainian-American population living in Minnesota to illustrate the strong ties between the two countries.
"This is a democracy, we're proud it's a democracy," Klobuchar said, "and we stand with Ukraine."