New York (UCCA) – Earlier today, President Donald Trump welcomed Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko to the Oval Office for a frank discussion about recent developments in Ukraine, as well as continuing the United States’ support of Ukraine in defense of its sovereignty and democratic values. Today’s meeting came on the heels of Speaker Paul Ryan and Chairman of Ukraine’s Parliament, Andriy Parubiy, meeting last week and signing a Memorandum of Understanding reaffirming the U.S. Congress – Verkhovna Rada Parliamentary Exchange (CRPE). Also today, the United States Treasury sanctioned 38 additional individuals & entities related to Russia's continued occupation of Crimea.

While all of these developments serve to demonstrate to the world that the longstanding strategic alliance between Ukraine and the United States continues on, we can ill afford to sit back while Russia continues to go on the offensive. Since the beginning of 2017, there have been nearly 2,000 recorded attacks by Russian forces across the 'ceasefire' line in Ukraine, with dozens of civilians killed this year alone. Russian forces have also resumed firing heavy artillery onto Ukrainian positions, as well as deployed portable rocket launchers.

In response to Russia’s aggressive military action in Ukraine and malicious cyber activity against the United States and our allies, the U.S. Senate deliberated and passed a new sanctions regime last week by an overwhelming vote of 97-2. These new sanctions target Russia’s mining, metal, shipping, and railway sectors, parts of its energy sector, and individuals who have conducted business with its intelligence or defense sectors. Included in the list of potential penalties are provisions which would enable the United States to impose sanctions on European firms involved in financing Russia’s oil and gas pipelines to Europe, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is being built under the Baltic Sea to provide Russian gas to Germany. Furthermore, this legislation would cement into law existing sanctions on Russia enacted following its invasion of Ukraine and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Lastly, this legislation has been appended to a universally supported sanctions bill against the nation of Iran in order that it might be quickly enacted.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest grassroots representation of Americans of Ukrainian descent, calls upon supporters of Ukraine in this country to contact their elected Representatives TODAY to urge them to take up the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act in the House of Representatives. This critical legislation was received by the House the morning after its overwhelming passage in the Senate, but it has been relegated to a subcommittee where it is in danger of being watered down, or worse yet, left unpassed before the August recess.

Our community, like other ethnic communities throughout this great nation whose people and homelands have come under attack by Putin’s Russia, believe instead that the United States should maintain and strengthen sanctions to ratchet up the pressure on Russia and those companies which support Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine. Emboldened by our unity, our elected leaders should furthermore honor the commitments made to our strategic allies, and provide Ukraine with defensive weapons, equipment, and training as already authorized by Congress in order to counter Russia’s offenses and reestablish Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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