Top U.S. Senate Republican signals support for Biden on Ukraine

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WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Republicans largely support President Joe Biden's actions toward Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but that lawmakers have hit a snag in efforts to agree on aid to Kyiv.

"I think there's broad support for the president in what he's doing now. Our biggest complaint is, what took him so long?" McConnell told a press conference after the Biden administration ratcheted up sanctions against Russia and its central bank.

"Much of this might have deterred the aggression in advance. But, yes, we're all together behind the Ukrainian people. We're thrilled at the changes that have occurred within NATO, and I think I've seen our country pretty unified. As a matter of fact, the whole world seems to be unified," McConnell said.

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The White House is seeking $6.4 billion in humanitarian and security aid from Congress for Ukraine. Democrats intend to include the funding in an omnibus spending bill that lawmakers in the House of Representatives expect to vote on next week. read more

But McConnell said talks have bogged down over the defense segment of the Ukraine aid package, which he said Democrats wanted to fund from a defense spending level agreed to before the invasion.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks from the Senate chamber to his office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

"We're not going to do that," McConnell told reporters, adding that in an emergency, the process should be different.

"We’ve hit a snag," he said.

Before Russian forces invaded Ukraine last week, McConnell was among a chorus of Republicans calling on Biden to impose sanctions against Moscow in hopes of dissuading aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Other Republicans continue to blast Biden for what they claim to be weak leadership and have used the Ukraine crisis to stump for longstanding Republican policies that include reducing environmental regulation and boosting fossil fuel production.

McConnell also rejected former President Donald Trump's characterization of Putin's actions in Ukraine as "genius" and "pretty savvy."

"What President Putin is, is a ruthless thug who's just invaded another sovereign country and killed thousands of innocent people. That's what President Putin is," McConnell said when asked about Trump's remarks.

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Reporting by David Morgan and Doina Chiacu; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool

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