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- As Delivered - 


WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement supporting the right of the people of Ukraine to freely elect their government and determine their future (H.Res.348) on the House floor:


“Thank you Mr. Speaker.  I rise in support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.


“First of all, I want to thank Mr. Cicilline for drafting this resolution.  With its passage, we’ll again be signaling that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine, that we want them to chart the future for their own country, and that we reject the aggression and unlawfulness of Russia’s actions under President Putin.


“Let me also thank our chairman, Ed Royce.  The hallmark of the Foreign Affairs Committee is our success in advancing good, bipartisan legislation.  And this resolution is a prime example of business as usual for our Committee.  I’m very proud of it.


“Our interest in Ukraine is nothing new.  Over the past year, our Committee has focused a great deal on this crisis.  We’ve passed legislation aimed at assisting Ukraine.  We want to see a successful democratic transition.  We want Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be restored.  And we want to deter Russia from further aggression.


“The ceasefire in Ukraine finally seems to be holding.  That’s good news.  But I still have deep concerns. 


“First of all, while the upcoming elections are important, not all of Ukraine’s citizens will have their voices heard.  Only areas under Kyiv’s control will be casting ballots.  And Russia has a history of sticking its nose in Ukraine’s elections.  Putin has said that he won’t interfere with this vote.  But I’m not holding my breath.  Nor should anyone else.


“So we’ll be looking for some specific benchmarks.  For instance, Minsk requires—the agreement in Minsk requires—that elections in Donetsk and Luhansk be held after Russia draws down its forces there.  Not just Russian personnel, but all military equipment, all mercenaries, all support for proxies must be out of these areas before elections.


“It’s critical that the OSCE mount a full-scale observation mission and be permitted to monitor every stage of the process.  We’ll be keeping a close eye on this as well.


“Yet even if Minsk is followed to the letter—a ceasefire, followed by elections, followed by restoration of Kyiv’s control over its own eastern border—the international order will remain compromised.  This agreement does not address Crimea nor does it hold the force of international law. 


“And as much as we talk about Minsk, we shouldn’t forget prior and far more important agreements, such as the Helsinki Final Act and the Budapest Memorandum, which reaffirmed the core principle of the Final Act: that the territorial integrity of states is inviolable.


“You know, Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union, and when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.  And as part of giving that up, Ukraine was guaranteed its territorial integrity.  Guaranteed by the United States, by Russia, and by others.  Certainly they’re being betrayed right now.  And we should not stand for it.


“And lastly, we should have no illusions that this agreement will deter President Putin’s aggression.  Indeed, as Moscow dials up its intervention in the Middle East, in Syria, Ukraine is looking more and more like just one element of a much larger scheme by President Putin to destabilize countries on Russia’s borders.  That’s what Putin wants to do.  He wants to keep Ukraine unstable, destabilized.


“So with this resolution, we reaffirm our support for Ukraine.  We express our hope that Minsk will keep the peace.  And we make clear that we are keeping a watchful eye on Russia, and that we are ready to continue assisting Ukraine to consolidate its democratic gains and restore its territorial integrity.


“Ukraine wants to be democratic.  Ukraine wants to look towards the West.  Ukraine does not want to be dominated by Russia.  We should give them all the support that they deserve.


“That’s what the United States does, that’s what the United States is all about, and that’s what this resolution does.  So I urge my colleagues to support this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.”