By Mario Trujillo - 05/24/14 09:38 AM EDT
A delegation of lawmakers including Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will head to Ukraine on Saturday to help monitor scheduled elections in the country.
Ukraine, which has been engulfed in turmoil with Russia, is slated to hold presidential elections Sunday after ousted President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia amid protests in the country.
"We're there to support the Ukrainians — that's the message we'll carry with our physical presence," Cardin told The Baltimore Sun ahead of the trip. "We want to make sure people can get to the polling places unobstructed, that the mechanism of the elections are working...and make sure that the people aren't intimidated from voting."
Portman echoed the comments, saying the group is there to "be sure that the voting is fair, that the ability of every individual in that country to influence their country is at the ballot box and not by the barrel of a gun, and I want to be sure that there are free and fair elections," he told The Plain Dealer.
Also on the trip are Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas). A number of other U.S. lawmakers will also be in the country, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).
“Those of us who believe in limited government and the supremacy of individual rights must stand with those working to ensure the right to choose your own political leaders,” Stockman said in a statement earlier this week.
The United States has warned Russia that it would impose further sanctions on the Russian economy if it interferes in the elections. Earlier this year, Russia annexed Crimea, formerly of Ukraine, after it voted to secede amid increased Russian troop presence there. For months, Russian troops have been camped on the Eastern border of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists have taken over some government buildings in eastern Ukraine, which holds a large population of ethnic Russians.
"The president and I have agreed that if Russia undermines these elections on Sunday, we must remain resolute in imposing greater cost on Russia. And we must be equally resolute in reinvesting in the NATO alliance," Vice President Biden said during remarks in neighboring Romania earlier this week.