2014-05-14 03:42 AM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas will visit Ukraine this month and meet with leaders of the protest movement that forced out the country's pro-Russian president, his office said Tuesday.
Frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 White House contender, Cruz also will visit other Eastern European countries and Israel on a trip that could be seen as an attempt to build his foreign policy credentials.
Dates and details of his other stops were not immediately released. Ukraine has a May 25 presidential election.
A Republican, Cruz is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The trip is sponsored by Secure America Now, a conservative foreign policy group and Cruz will be the only lawmaker on the trip, his office said.
"Sen. Cruz is eager for the opportunity to meet with leaders and influencers in each of these regions to listen to their concerns, ideas and expertise, and learn more about the situation on the ground," spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said.
Cruz has said the U.S. should install anti-ballistic missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic as safeguards for Eastern Europe, and push for liquefied natural gas exports to reduce Ukraine's dependence on Russia.
Ukraine's caretaker government came to power in February following the ouster of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych after months of protests in Kiev, leading to the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
Russia later annexed Crimea, and on Monday, pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukraine declared independence and also sought to join Russia. On Tuesday, the defense ministry said six servicemen were ambushed and killed and eight others wounded in fighting with insurgents.
Last week, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens to defer all "non-essential" travel to Ukraine and avoid all travel within the eastern parts of the country. The warning cited the "possibility of violent clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian groups and the presence of Russian military forces in the Crimean Peninsula and on the eastern border of Ukraine."