Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Friday, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the country’s capital.
Christie met with Zelenskyy at the country’s presidential palace, where he reiterated his support for Ukraine, according to a pool report, contrasting his candidacy with some in the Republican Party who have opposed providing aid to the country.
Christie, the second 2024 Republican presidential candidate to visit Ukraine, following former Vice President Mike Pence, said he hoped to get a firsthand look at the wartime atrocities that the country has experienced.
“I am an advocate for there being more aid to Ukraine,” Christie said, according to the pool report, adding that he hoped U.S. aid would help Ukraine defeat Russia in the war.
“It’s very important that the U.S. is on the right side,” Zelenskyy told the former U.S. governor.
Christie also visited the once-Russian-occupied city of Bucha — where he met with the town’s mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk — as well as Moshchun, another area that has seen intense fighting. In Bucha, Fedoruk and Christie visited a mass burial site, where Christie laid a bouquet of flowers at a memorial for those who died in the area. Over 1,000 civilians reportedly died in Bucha as a result of Russia’s invasion.
The former governor’s visit in the early race for the GOP nomination aimed to demonstrate his support for Ukraine. As some Republicans remain skeptical about providing more financial support to Kyiv, other candidates including Pence and Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, have vowed to continue U.S. aid efforts if they are elected president.
Former President Donald Trump has said that opposing Russia in Ukraine is not vital to the United States’ strategic interests, and, at a rally last weekend, he urged Republican lawmakers to pause military aid to Ukraine unless the Biden administration cooperates with GOP-led probes of the president and his son Hunter Biden.
Similarly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had previously told conservative personality Tucker Carlson that defending Ukraine was not a vital U.S. interest and described the conflict as a “territorial dispute,” though later he walked back those remarks.
Christie has argued that aiding Ukraine in its war against Russia also sends a message to other adversaries that the U.S. will support its democratic allies.
“We’re not sending American troops to Ukraine and I don’t believe we ever should. That’s not our war to fight with our men and women on the ground. But we should, in my view, help Ukraine defend themselves against aggression,” Christie said at a town hall in March.
An NBC News poll conducted earlier this year found that 63% of Republicans oppose providing more funds and weapons to Ukraine.
Christie, however, has called existing U.S. aid insufficient. Standing beside Bucha’s mayor Friday, Christie said he hoped his visit will help voters grasp the extent of the devastation in Ukraine.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in our country who would come here and see this and not think this is the kind of the things we need to stand up and prevent,” Christie said. “We need to give them the means necessary to fight.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com