The handling of the war in Ukraine isn't as significant to American voters as the economy, health care, immigration, abortion and some other issues.
Polling suggests that concerns about the costs of the war resonate with working-class Republican primary voters, says Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Pennsylvania.
An AP-NORC poll conducted in January 2023 shows that almost a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, support by Democrats had dropped from 71% to 63% while Republican support had dropped more, from 53% to 39%.
The United States has committed more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion. That includes more than $43 billion in military aid.
Dozens of Republicans in the House, and some GOP senators, have expressed reservations about — and even voted against — spending more federal dollars on the war in Ukraine. Many of those Republicans are aligning with former President Donald Trump's objections to U.S. involvement overseas.
This week's first GOP presidential debate — and recent comments on Ukraine by Trump, who leads in polling for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — shows that previous bipartisan backing of Ukraine will face a stress test as the campaign intensifies and the leading Republican contenders show antipathy toward American backing of Ukraine.
Borick said U.S. President Joe Biden is not likely to win votes solely on his handling of Ukraine. But how the war plays out in the months ahead could help or diminish the president's broader argument about his administration's competency and success at restoring U.S. leadership on the international stage after four years of Trump's "American first" foreign policy approach.
"Right now, Ukraine isn't as prominent an issue for voters, but we're seeing conservative presidential contenders such as Trump, [Vivek] Ramaswamy and [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis setting the stage questioning how much U.S. treasure we're spending over there that we could be spending at home," he said.
Prigozhin's reported death
On Friday, the Kremlin labeled as "an absolute lie" the Western conjecture that Russian President Vladimir Putin masterminded Yevgeny Prigozhin's death.
The chief of the mercenary Wagner group reportedly was on the jet that crashed Wednesday evening just outside of Moscow.
Prigozhin's name was on the passenger manifest, and he reportedly was among the 10 people aboard who died in the crash. Putin cited "preliminary information" saying that Prigozhin and his top associates in the Wagner mercenary group had all been killed.
Earlier on Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov scolded Biden for suggesting that the Russian president had orchestrated Prigozhin's death.
"It is not for the U.S. president, in my opinion, to talk about certain tragic events of this nature," Ryabkov said Friday.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Biden said he was not surprised by Prigozhin's reported death. "There's not much that happens in Russia that Putin's not behind," he said.
Asked by The Associated Press whether the Kremlin had received an official confirmation of Prigozhin's death, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referenced Putin's remarks from a day earlier.
"He said that right now, all the necessary forensic analyses, including genetic testing, will be carried out. Once some kind of official conclusions are ready to be released, they will be released," Peskov said.
According to a preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment, the plane was downed by an intentional explosion. One of the U.S. and Western officials who described the assessment said it determined that Prigozhin was "very likely" targeted and that the explosion falls in line with Putin's "long history of trying to silence his critics."
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, did not offer any details about what caused the explosion. It is believed to be in retaliation for the mutiny in June that posed the biggest challenge to Putin's 23-year rule.
Assassination attempts against foes of Putin's have been common during his nearly quarter century in power. Whether it was by drinking polonium-laced tea or touching a deadly nerve agent or getting shot at close range, relatives of the victims and the few survivors have blamed Russian authorities. The Kremlin has routinely denied any involvement as it did on Friday by saying it was "a complete lie" it had anything to do with the jet crash.
Ukrainian, Turkish leaders confer
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks Friday in Kyiv with Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Hakan Fidan regarding the Black Sea grain deal and other related topics.
"Many important issues were discussed. [Ukraine's] Peace Formula. Preparations for the Global Peace Summit. Risks posed by the Russian blockade of the Black Sea grain corridor," Zelenskyy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Turkey is trying to persuade Russia to return to the negotiating table regarding the U.N.-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative that was guaranteeing the safety of cargo vessels passing through the Black Sea corridor.
Russia has threatened to treat all vessels as potential military targets after pulling out of the U.N.-backed safe passage deal.
According to U.S. officials, since Russia's exit from the grain deal, Ukraine, a major grain exporter, has resorted to overland and Danube River routes as effective ways to transport its grain.
"I think we see there are viable routes through Ukraine's territorial waters and overland, and we are aiming ... over the next couple of months to return to exporting at kind of prewar averages from Ukraine," James O'Brien, head of the U.S. State Department's Office of Sanctions Coordination, told Reuters in an interview.
Ukraine has begun exporting through a "humanitarian corridor" along the sea's western coastline near Romania and Bulgaria.
A Hong Kong-flagged container ship stuck in Odesa port since the invasion began was the first vessel to travel that route last week without being fired upon by Russia.
Russia is regrouping in the Moscow-controlled eastern part of Ukraine to resume an offensive, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian military's ground forces, said Friday.
"After a month of fierce fighting and significant losses in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions, the enemy is regrouping its forces and means, simultaneously throwing newly formed brigades and divisions from the territory of the Russian Federation," Syrskyi said on his Telegram channel.
Syrskyi said the main goal of these measures was to "increase the level of combat potential and resume active offensive operations."
Syrskyi did not provide details of the Russian regrouping but said the forces continued heavy artillery and mortar shelling as well as air assaults.
"Under such conditions, we must promptly take all measures to strengthen our defenses on the threatened lines and advance where possible," the general said.
Kupiansk, a town with a pre-war population around 27,000, was seized by Russia in the early days of the February 2022 invasion before Ukrainian troops recaptured it in a lightning offensive last September that embarrassed Moscow.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.