This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A U.S. bipartisan congressional delegation visiting Kyiv has encouraged Ukraine to continue reforms to solidify its democracy and expressed solidarity with the country in the face of Russian “aggression.”
“Ensuring Ukraine continues key reforms to strengthen its democracy is critical to our enduring partnership & to counter Russian aggression,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat-New Hampshire), who is heading the U.S. delegation, tweeted from the Ukrainian capital on June 2.
“Appreciated meeting w/government reps & civil society members on their work to root out corruption & build a better tomorrow for Ukraine,” she added.
The visiting delegation includes Shaheen and two other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Rob Portman (Republican-Ohio) and Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut).
“We talked about the importance of increasing our ties, providing even more effective military assistance, so Ukraine can defend itself,” Portman told reporters after the talks.
The United States has provided nearly $5 billion in financial, humanitarian, and military aid to Kyiv since 2014, when Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed separatists in two of its eastern provinces, sparking a war that has killed more than 13,200.
The senators “reaffirmed bipartisan U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty & territorial integrity,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that long-term bipartisan support for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress is “vital to our strategic partnership at a time when our state continues to resist Russian aggression and implement reforms.”
The three senators traveled to Ukraine from Lithuania, where they met with exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. They called for harsher economic sanctions against the regime of Belarus’s authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka and for the release of political prisoners.
The delegation is set to travel to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi after it leaves Kyiv.
Ahead of the bipartisan trip, Shaheen said it would send “a clear message that the United States is committed to rebuilding our transatlantic relations and reasserting U.S. global leadership to promote democratic values.”
“We support Ukraine and Georgia in their desire to achieve their Euro-Atlantic ambitions, and the U.S. is eager to play a supporting role to make NATO and EU membership a reality.”
Ukraine and Georgia are seeking closer ties with the West, including membership in NATO that Moscow adamantly opposes.
Russia maintains troops in two breakaway regions that comprise about 20 percent of Georgian territory, in what Tbilisi considers an occupation.