KYIV – A bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on January 17, during which time the senators expressed their strong solidarity with Ukraine in the face of increased Russian aggression, including the further military buildup of Russian troops on the Ukraine/Russia border. The participants of the meeting also discussed the ongoing conflict in the Donbas and the annexation of Crimea.
U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) all took part in the meeting with Mr. Zelenskyy.
During the meeting in Kyiv, the senators expressed their deep concern over the buildup of Russia’s forces in and around Ukraine, and pledged to continue to support funding for Ukraine’s defense in the U.S. Senate.
“This is a critical time in Ukraine’s history and our delegation sent a message to Russia and the people of Ukraine that the United States stands with Ukraine in response to unwarranted and unprovoked Russian aggression,” Mr. Portman said. “As a bipartisan delegation representing different parts of the country across the political spectrum, we made it clear that the cause of freedom knows no political boundary in the U.S. Congress. We expressed our solidarity with the people of Ukraine in protecting their sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Discussions during the meeting touched on the further needs Ukraine has for assistance to counter the Russian threat. The senators also discussed the need for Ukraine to continue its democratic reforms in order to position the country for membership in NATO.
The senators discussed increased funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that recently passed Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The initiative has been extended through 2022 and its funding has been increased from $250 to $300 million per year, with at least $75 million specifically designated for lethal assistance. The funds will be used to help train, equip and provide support for the Ukrainian government and armed forces in their effort to defend their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression.
“Our bipartisan delegation concluded a comprehensive series of meetings with President Zelenskyy and members of his administration, and throughout the day, [we]made clear that the United States is united across party lines in support of Ukraine against [Mr.] Putin’s belligerence,” said Ms. Shaheen. “I’m proud to have partnered with Sen. Portman to lead this group of lawmakers to reaffirm our nation’s resolve to stand with our democratic partners. I look forward to sharing feedback with our Senate colleagues so we can swiftly get to work on a path forward in Congress to respond to the political situation in Ukraine and Eastern Europe that safeguards Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Europe’s energy security and broader regional stability. Efforts are underway to enhance our laws that will empower the Biden administration with tools to work with our allies to prepare penalties for [Mr.] Putin amid his provocations, and increase aid to Ukraine.”
“Vladimir Putin has made the biggest mistake of his career in underestimating how courageously the people of Ukraine will fight him if he invades. Vladimir Putin’s plan is to divide, demoralize and degrade democracy through a hybrid war of cyber, military action and misinformation. But there will be consequences for this unprovoked aggression. America is bound to Ukraine by an unshakable dedication to freedom, independence and democracy. We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine – unstintingly and unwaveringly – as they fight this battle,” Mr. Blumenthal said.
“In the face of Russian aggression, it is incredibly important to have our bipartisan delegation come to Kyiv and demonstrate Congress’ enduring support for Ukraine. We had an informative and productive trip. There is strong unity in our respect and support for the Ukrainian people and their independence,” Mr. Cramer said.
“At a moment of political division in Washington, we instead chose to travel to Ukraine in unity. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine who have now lost 14,000 people at the hands of Russia,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “The U.S. administration – from the secretary of state to the president himself – has pledged to help this country. Our message is that there will be consequences if Vladimir Putin chooses to violate the sanctity of this democracy.”
“Russia’s increasingly aggressive actions in and around Ukraine are deeply concerning, and it’s critical that [Mr.] Putin understands the United States stands with the Ukrainian people and their right to decide their own future. In our meeting with President Zelenskyy, we expressed our unwavering bipartisan support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and continued democratic reforms and reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring they have the defensive weapons system necessary to protect against a threatened Russian invasion,” Mr. Murphy said.
“Ukraine is a vital U.S. partner who is standing resolute in the face of Vladimir Putin’s shameful and illegal aggression,” Mr. Wicker said. “I appreciated the opportunity to meet with President Zelenskyy to express our strong and united support for Ukraine. It is imperative that the United States stay strong in the face of Russian aggression and stand by our friends who are fighting for freedom.”
Source: Office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.