April 11, 2014 - Recently hundreds of pro-Russian protestors seized and damaged government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Russian troops remain on the borders of Ukraine, ready to invade at any time. Many people believe that some of the protestors are Russian operatives and that these events are part of a Russian government policy to destabilize Ukraine and so undermine its sovereignty and democracy.
This comes on the heels of the Russian government’s illegitimate annexation of Crimea – a gross violation of the core principles of the OSCE as well as several multilateral and bilateral agreements between Ukraine and Russia. The military occupation and annexation of Crimea by means of an illegal referendum is the most blatant assault on a European country’s territorial integrity since the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
The Russian government claims it is concerned about threats to ethnic Russians and other minorities by the new, pro-Western government. Yet recent surveys show an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, including minorities, do not believe that Russian-speakers are facing increased pressure since the flight of Victor Yanukovych and installation of a new government. It is remarkable the extent to which Ukrainian citizens of every ethnicity and every faith – Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim – are united in their condemnation of Russian government aggression and their desire to live in a peaceful, united, independent, democratic Ukraine.
In the past six months the Ukrainian people have shown tremendous courage, character, faith, responsibility, and maturity. They are going to have to continue doing so –as they implement deep economic and political reforms, conduct the political campaign running up to May 25 presidential elections, and face down Russia, posing an existential threat to Ukrainian independence. Each of these tasks are daunting, to say the least.
That is why our country is standing with the Ukrainian people as never before. The Ukraine Support Act, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, is now public law, assisting Ukraine and sanctioning individuals responsible for undermining its sovereignty. And the international community has resolutely condemned Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Some diplomatic and economic sanctions have been instituted, but we need to do more should the need arise. The United States and international community simply cannot permit outright aggression that not only subverts Ukraine’s independence, but peace and security in the regions and, indeed, throughout the world.
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