Criticism of Kiev spells trouble for Ukrainian-born congresswoman
A Ukrainian-born US lawmaker’s unrelenting criticism of the Kiev authorities, including President Vladimir Zelensky, has frustrated many officials in Washington, CNN reported on Friday, adding that the White House had even arranged a special briefing to address her claims.
Victoria Spartz, a US Republican representative from the state of Indiana, and the first and only Ukrainian-born member of Congress, has repeatedly criticized the Kiev government amid its ongoing conflict with Russia. Although she has stated that she wants Ukraine to win and, in her telling, has visited the country six times since the outbreak of hostilities in late February, many of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle have grown weary of her “bellicose rhetoric,” the report says.
Spartz has been particularly vocal about corruption in Ukraine. US lawmakers and officials, however, worry that her jabs aimed at Kiev may undermine both Zelensky’s public image and sour US-Ukrainian relations while complicating the approval of new aid packages.
“We’ve all talked to her," one Republican lawmaker told the outlet. "It’s pissing people off. Because it hurts the cause.”
“I think there's an open question of why she’s so openly saying something that’s so clearly aligned with Russian talking points,” Democratic congresswoman Elissa Slotkin told CNN, adding that Spartz’s Ukrainian background gives a lot of weight to her words.
According to the report, the Biden administration has also stepped in. After the congresswoman requested a briefing on Ukraine, officials from the National Security Council and State Department provided one to her, the outlet’s sources say. During the nearly two-hour meeting, White House officials reportedly discussed her claims of improper behavior inside the Ukrainian government, either refuting them or arguing that there is insufficient information to support them.
Spartz also reportedly met with US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley to address corruption in Ukraine, as well as her concerns that the US-supplied weapons may find its way into the wrong hands. The US top military commander did not dismiss her reservations out of hand, according to CNN, since Washington has been urging Kiev to do more to fight corruption for a long time.
In a more general context, Milley, however, is said to have told Spartz that her worries “were overwrought.”
However, the sit-down with the top US general apparently did little to dispel Spartz’s misgivings, since a few days later she continued her attacks on one of Zelensky’s top aides, lodging accusations of “creating a per se dictatorship under the disguise of the ongoing war."
Ukrainian officials are not happy with the congresswoman either, with Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko saying in early July that Spartz has been attempting to bring “Russian propaganda” into American politics. His comments came in response to the lawmaker’s open letter to US President Joe Biden that expressed doubts about the reliability of President Vladimir Zelensky’s chief of staff and called for a mechanism to track military assistance provided to Kiev.
“We advise Ms. Spartz to stop trying to earn extra political capital on baseless speculation around the topic of war in our country and the grief of Ukrainians. Especially cynical are manipulations about Ukraine and its leadership from a congresswoman of Ukrainian origin,” Nikolenko said at the time.