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U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin and House Majority Leader Hoyer to Lead Congressional Delegation to Ukraine

WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), a former Chair of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and the highest ranking Member of Congress to attend an OSCE PA meeting, will lead a Congressional delegation to Ukraine from July 5 to 9, 2007. The Members of Congress that will be traveling with the delegation are U.S. Helsinki Commissioners Representatives Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) as well as Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Michael McNulty (D-NY) and Gwen Moore (D-WI).

While in Kyiv, the delegation will attend the 16th Annual Session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. The session will focus on regional security, including energy security, migration, corruption, democratic development and election standards. An additional focus will be on human rights issues affecting the OSCE region, including protection of minorities, press freedom and human trafficking.

Upon arrival, the delegation will meet with Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko on Thursday, July 5.

The delegation will also hold a press conference at the Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) on Friday, July 6 at 10:00 a.m. (PLEASE NOTE DATE AND TIME CHANGE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

The delegation also plans to hold bilateral meetings with Ukrainian officials and will discuss U.S.-Ukrainian relations to include greater economic, security and humanitarian cooperation; the prospects of integration into NATO and the European Union; efforts to provide greater political stability in light of the recent political crisis and upcoming parliamentary elections on September 30.

In addition, the delegation plans to hold bilateral meetings with members of the Russian delegation, where they hope to discuss U.S.-Russia relations, energy security, greater economic cooperation and civil liberties. On June 22, Congressman Hastings and Senator Cardin sent a letter to President Putin questioning state efforts to limit media freedom, citing professional and legal dangers associated with Russia’s media industry and the failure of President Putin’s government to allow the news to be reported accurately.

The delegation also plans to meet with parliamentarians from the Kazakhstan delegation. The meeting will focus on recent political developments, Kazakhstan’s bid to chair the OSCE in 2009, as well as religious freedoms, tolerance and human rights issues in the country.

Congressman Hastings, OSCE Special Representative for the Mediterranean, will chair a meeting with parliamentary delegations from the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation. The Mediterranean partners include Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. During the meeting they plan to discuss the tenuous circumstances of the Palestinian government, the future for Middle East peace and the current refugee situation in the region.

The delegation also plans to travel to Chernobyl and visit the site where on April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, releasing radioactive materials across Europe.  During the visit to the Chernobyl Zone, the delegation plans to discuss energy and environmental security in the region.

The delegation will also visit the sites of the Babi Yar and Famine-Genocide (1932-1933) Memorials.  Babi Yar is the site of one of the worst massacres during the Holocaust where over 33,000 Jews from Kyiv and its suburbs were killed on September 29 to 30, 1941. The Famine-Genocide Memorial is dedicated to the millions of Ukrainians who died in 1932-33 from the largest famine to take place during the 20th century.

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