(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, announced that she will lead a bipartisan congressional delegation with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) to Eastern Europe next week to reaffirm U.S. commitment to its partners. The Senators will travel to Lithuania to meet with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis in light of the Lukashenka regime’s increasing human rights abuses against political opposition, including the recent hijacking of a civilian airliner to unlawfully arrest and detain journalist Raman Pratasevich. In Ukraine, the Senators will encourage continued reforms to solidify its democracy and express solidarity with Ukraine, which continues to face an increasingly aggressive Russia. Shaheen and Portman will visit Georgia to send a bipartisan message that the United States stands with the people of Georgia in their efforts to strengthen their democracy.
“Ukraine and Georgia are important U.S. partners against an increasingly aggressive Russia and it is critical that we convey our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Georgia, and encourage political leaders to continue making necessary reforms that will strengthen their democracies. We support Ukraine and Georgia in their desire to achieve their Euro-Atlantic ambitions, and the U.S. is eager to play a supporting role to make NATO and EU membership a reality,” said Shaheen. “This bipartisan trip sends a clear message that the United States is committed to rebuilding our transatlantic relations and reasserting U.S. global leadership to promote democratic values. That’s why I am looking forward to consulting with our frontline ally Lithuania, and why I’m particularly appreciative to have the opportunity to meet with Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya to reiterate the United States’ fierce rebuke of Lukashenka’s vast human rights abuses in Belarus, which escalated last week with the unlawful arrest and detainment of journalist Raman Pratasevich. I look forward to reaffirming, in person, U.S. support for Belarusians in their pleas for an accountable government, and for all political prisoners to be released, for this abhorrent abuse of power to end and for NATO and EU allies to hold Lukashenka to account.”
“I am proud to join my colleagues Senators Shaheen and Murphy on this important trip to Eastern Europe,” said Portman. “It is fitting that we begin our trip by meeting with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to express our unwavering support for the people of Belarus as they seek a free and democratic future for their country. The recent forced landing of a civilian airliner and detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich is a clear violation of international law and I call for the United States and our European Union partners to take swift action in the form of international sanctions against those responsible. I look forward to meeting with senior officials in Ukraine and Georgia and reaffirming our commitment to these strategic security partners. Both of these countries face severe external challenges from Russia and are striving to enact critical domestic reforms which are key to our continued support.”
“I look forward to joining this important delegation to Ukraine and Lithuania to support democracy in eastern Europe. After Lukashenka’s brazen hijacking of a civilian airliner to arrest a journalist last week, it’s important for America to stand with the leader of the Belarusian pro-democracy movement, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. And as Russian forces remain amassed on the border with Ukraine, this is also a critical moment to reinforce that the United States Congress stands with the Ukrainian people against Putin’s aggression and we will continue to provide the necessary security assistance for Ukraine to defend itself. At the same time, we know that the best defense against Russian interference is a strong, resilient democracy, and so we will continue pushing on the reform agenda. I look forward to meeting with anti-corruption and pro-democracy activists from both countries who are on the frontlines of this fight,” said Murphy.
During their visit, the Senators will meet members of civil society and with representatives of the Ukrainian and Georgian governments, including opposition party leaders in Georgia serving as Members of Parliament. In Ukraine, the Senators will speak with press to emphasize the urgent need to advance anti-corruption efforts and empower a free, independent media. Additional details about the visit will be available in the coming days.