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Attorney General Merrick Garland makes surprise trip to Ukraine

Garland is meeting with the country's prosecutor general to discuss international efforts to prosecute people involved in war crimes.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Tuesday, according to a Department of Justice spokesperson.

Garland is meeting with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova "to discuss U.S. and international efforts to help Ukraine identify, apprehend, and prosecute those individuals involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine."

The attorney general, who first landed in Poland before traveling to Ukraine, was expected to make brief remarks to a small group of assembled journalists from U.S. and Ukrainian-based media outlets.

It's unclear where in the country Garland will be for the meeting and for how long the visit will last.

The Justice Department said Garland announced the launch of a "War Crimes Accountability Team" that will be responsible for overseeing the administration's work to hold people accountable for war crimes in Ukraine. Garland named Eli Rosenbaum, a 36-year veteran of DOJ, to lead the team.

"There is no hiding place for war criminals. The U.S. Justice Department will pursue every avenue of accountability for those who commit war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine," Garland said in a statement. "Working alongside our domestic and international partners, the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable every person complicit in the commission of war crimes, torture, and other grave violations during the unprovoked conflict in Ukraine."

His visit comes after first lady Jill Biden visited Ukraine in early May. Two top Cabinet secretaries — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken — also visited the war-torn nation in late April.

President Joe Biden told reporters in Rehobeth Beach, Del., over the weekend that it wasn't likely that he would tack on a trip to Ukraine during his upcoming overseas travel to Europe and the Middle East.

"I’ve been meeting with Zelenskyy, and I’ve talked with him almost, well, at least three or four times a week," Biden said. "I’m going into Germany, then I’m going to Spain. Then, I’m going to Israel. Then, I’m going into Saudi Arabia for a larger meeting of a community there. And then, I’ll be coming home, probably directly."

U.S. officials have previously said that the federal government will assist Ukraine's efforts to identify and prosecute war crimes that have taken place in the country since Russia invaded the region in late February.