Delegation meets with VP Biden, Travels to Eastern Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine – Today, following three days of meetings and travel within Ukraine, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, issued the following statements.

Royce and Engel led a bipartisan delegation to the country, meeting with Vice President Biden, other U.S. officials and senior Ukrainian officials to assess the effect of ongoing U.S. efforts to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and following the illegal annexation of Crimea.   The delegation met with acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Chairman Royce said:  “Our bipartisan delegation came to crisis-stricken Ukraine to assess first-hand the facts as they exist here on the ground.  During three days of talks with a broad range of Ukrainians — senior government officials, representatives of civil society, Jewish and other minority groups, and others in Kyiv and eastern Ukraine, including the Russian-speaking community – the consistent message I heard is that they are strongly committed to creating a democratic, united, and tolerant Ukraine and proudly anticipating the upcoming Ukrainian elections. I leave Ukraine determined to work so Russia’s efforts to destabilize the country and derail the May 25 presidential election will not succeed.  Likewise, I leave Ukraine even more convinced that it is vital for the United States and our allies in Europe and elsewhere to make clear to Vladimir Putin that further aggression against Ukraine will result in hard-hitting sanctions that will undermine the Russian economy and cause Putin to rethink his actions.  A key part of our strategy must be to use the sale of U.S. natural gas to Ukraine to break Russia’s chokehold.”

Ranking Member Engel said: “Ukraine is facing an unprecedented challenge from Russia as it continues to occupy Crimea and threaten much of the east and south of the country with political chaos or even invasion. Our bipartisan congressional delegation sent a strong message of support to the Ukrainian people and their government that the United States stands with them at this critical time.”

The delegation met on Monday with Vice President Joe Biden, with whom the delegation discussed the broad range of Ukraine policy issues, the challenge posed by Russia, and how U.S. energy policy could reduce Putin’s energy grip on Ukraine and the rest of Europe.   Also on Monday, Royce, Engel, and other members of the delegation visited and placed flowers at the Shrine to the Fallen, which honors the memories of the more than 100 Ukrainians shot and killed during pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the delegation traveled to eastern Ukraine, where they met with many members of the Russian-speaking community in and around the city of Dnipropetrovsk.   While in the East, the delegation met with Dnipropetrovsk Governor Igor Kolomoysky, Jewish community leaders, and a range of civil society leaders and volunteers combating human trafficking.  The delegation was welcomed to the Golden Rose Synagogue and the world’s largest Jewish Center by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki.

In addition to the meetings with acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the delegation met with Russian-speaking and ethnically-Russian national legislators, other Ukrainian officials, and a broad range of major presidential candidates from across the political spectrum.

While examining Ukraine’s efforts to diversify its energy supply and improve efficiency, the delegation assessed efforts to expand the hours and quality of U.S. international broadcasting (Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) into eastern Ukraine to counter Russian propaganda.  Congress recently passed, and the President signed, legislation originally authored by Chairman Royce and co-sponsored by Ranking Member Engel to expand these broadcasts.

On Tuesday evening, the delegation participated in a press conference at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv.  The video of the press conference is available HERE.

Other Members of the delegation include Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL).