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Sen. Daines describes devastation he witnessed during visit to Ukraine

HELENA – U.S. Sen. Steve Daines says he witnessed “the most horrible” scenes he has experienced during a visit to Ukraine last week.

“I can’t think of anything that compares to it,” he said Monday. “This is a horrible, horrible crime scene, with innocent Ukrainians as the victims.”

Daines spoke to reporters Monday after returning from a trip to Eastern Europe.

He said his initial plan was to visit Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova — neighbors of Ukraine — to talk about their efforts to aid Ukraine and to reduce their dependence on Russian energy.

However, Daines said, while in Slovakia, he was contacted by a former Ukrainian lawmaker who invited him to visit the country, to see some of the damage from their war with Russia.

He agreed and traveled to Poland, then to the Ukrainian city of Lviv, with assistance from local religious leaders.

“You see this mass exodus of Ukrainian refugees who were coming out of the country as we were going into the country,” Daines said.

From Lviv, they traveled by train to the capital, Kyiv — a trip sometimes delayed because of reported missile attacks.

Daines said, on Thursday, Ukrainian officials took him to the city of Bucha, where there has been extensive fighting, and where hundreds of civilians were found dead.

International teams are investigating the deaths as possible war crimes.

Daines said he saw evidence of civilian casualties, both adults and children.

He described the widespread destruction and the smell.

He made clear Monday that he believed Russian troops’ actions did qualify as war crimes, and he said it was important for eyewitness accounts like his to get out.

“I don’t think anybody can fully prepare to see the atrocities that I saw in Bucha and some surrounding villages on Thursday,” he said.

Daines said he plans to ask the Biden administration to accelerate military aid to Ukraine, return a diplomatic presence to the country, support war crimes investigations and encourage other countries to increase their aid.

During part of his trip, Daines traveled along with U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who was born in Ukraine.