(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and Chair of the Europe and Regional Security Cooperation SFRC Subcommittee, and U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today concluded their trip to Eastern Europe. They traveled to Lithuania, Ukraine and Georgia to reaffirm U.S. commitment to regional partners and strengthen democratic reforms.
The Senators began their trip in Lithuania, where they met with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis to discuss the Lukashenka regime’s increasing human rights abuses against political opposition. In Ukraine, the Senators encouraged support to strengthen democratic institutions against an increasingly aggressive Russia. To conclude the trip, Shaheen and Portman visited Georgia to highlight bipartisan U.S. solidarity for the people of Georgia in their efforts to implement a democratic compromise through the April 19th agreement.
“I’m grateful to the people of Lithuania, Ukraine and Georgia who hosted us and participated in thoughtful, bipartisan discussions around how to strengthen democratic efforts throughout the region -- especially in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia. As the U.S. reasserts its global leadership in advancing democratic values, rebuilding our transatlantic relations has never been more important,” said Shaheen. “Ukraine and Georgia are crucial strategic allies, and I look forward to helping them advance their democracies and achieve their Euro-Atlantic ambitions. I also look forward to continuing our hard work with Lithuania, which is on the frontline of holding the Lukashenka regime accountable for its alarming human rights abuses in Belarus. Meeting with Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was encouraging – I believe in her vision to end unlawful detentions of people who dare to speak or write the truth, and to create a government that’s accountable to the people of Belarus. I look forward to advancing these discussions as Tsikhanouskaya visits Congress next week, and I hope that Ukraine and Georgia are included as important topics of discussion in the upcoming NATO summit and Biden-Putin talks. This week laid a critical foundation to assure our partners we are committed to providing bipartisan support to our Eastern European allies in the weeks and months to come.”
“Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia have the potential to create tremendous opportunity for their people by following through on their commitments to enact consistent democratic reforms. I was grateful to be able to travel to the region this week as part of a bipartisan U.S. Senate congressional delegation and express our support to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Georgian Prime Minister Iraki Garibashvili,” said Portman. “The United States must continue to stand in solidarity with Ukraine against external Russian aggression and support its ongoing anti-corruption efforts. We must continue to support the people of Belarus in their efforts to pursue freedom, democracy, and free and fair elections. And we must continue to assist Georgia in its progress on the April 19 Agreement, as well as electoral and judicial reforms. I strongly support full NATO membership for both Ukraine and Georgia. Their commitment to free and democratic values is in line with NATO’s and it is time to fulfill the promise made in the 2008 Bucharest Agreement.”
“Now more than ever, the U.S. and our allies need to project a united front against Russian aggression, and that’s why Senator Shaheen, Senator Portman and I traveled to Eastern Europe this week. We showed strong bipartisan support for Belarusian opposition leader Svytlana Tsikhanouskaya in Vilnius, where we thanked her for the courageous work she and her colleagues are doing to restore democracy in Belarus that inspires similar movements across the world. And we reaffirmed the bipartisan U.S. commitment to Ukraine in the wake of the recent Russian military buildup along the Eastern border – and encouraged continued progress on democratic reforms in Ukraine. The best antidote to Russian interference is democracy, and our congressional delegation showed our European friends that the United States Congress is committed to protecting their security and advancing democratic reforms,” said Murphy.
Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Belarus to continue discussions around opposing corruption and holding the Lukashenka regime accountable for its increasing human rights abuses, including the recent hijacking of a civilian airliner to unlawfully arrest and detain journalist Raman Pratasevich. The upcoming NATO Summit on June 14th will also highlight developments in Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the future of the Atlantic Alliance.