Three years ago, Ukrainians made their choice. The vast majority of my people today support our country's development in the direction of the West. While we were once part of the Soviet Union — by force, not of our own volition — today we share the values of modern democratic societies: personal liberty, democracy and the rule of law.
This is why hundreds of thousands of us stood on the Maidan (the central square of the capital, Kyiv) demanding that the dictatorial regime of then-President Viktor Yanukovych resign.
Even now, we are fighting against Russian aggression and its attempts to destabilize our sovereign nation.
In the cold Ukrainian February of 2014, a hundred innocent people — men, women, young boys — gave their lives to wrest control from a completely corrupt president and create a just and democratic country.
But before we were able to reorganize our invigorated society after the revolution, the Kremlin, with the help of local and foreign mercenaries, literally stole Crimea from us and has since occupied nearly 10 percent of our territory.
In spite of these challenges and external attempts to destabilize our movement toward Western values, Ukrainians have made great strides in transforming our country into an open and transparent democracy.
As a participant in the revolution, I feel a great need to work to make these changes. I took the position of deputy governor and then chief of the Odessa Region customs service on the Black Sea, one of the most notorious enclaves of corruption in my country. Others across the country, inspired as I have been, have taken positions in local and national government, civil society, the military and as volunteers.
And people have come from all over the world to help transform Ukraine.
Our reforms to date are not yet as successful as we have hoped, in great part because there are still many old post-Soviet elites holding levers of power.
But our vibrant civil society and the vast number of young professionals who have entered the government are dedicated to changing the country. The positive changes that have been achieved would not be possible without international support. And we will not give up until we have a true and transparent democracy, free from corruption.
Until this is achieved, though, it is critical to have an international shield from Russia while we are rebuilding our country.
The European Union, Canada and the United States placed sanctions on Russia for its aggression and violation of international law. These sanctions have not only put economic pressure on Russia, but stand as a symbolic gesture that the world does not accept the imperialistic behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies.
We deeply appreciate the commitment of the U.S. government to these values.
Now, however, during the American presidential transition and the general state of turbulence in the world, it is even more important for Ukrainians to know that we are not alone against one of the largest, most well-armed Mafia states in the world.
Among all the various ways the United States has assisted Ukraine, solidarity on economic sanctions against Russia have helped enormously. Continuing these sanctions will be one of the greatest ways the U.S. can show its continued support for my country in the face of increased international uncertainty.
For this reason, the STAND (Stability and Democracy) for Ukraine Act, H.R. 5094, is an important legal pillar of defense against further Russian aggression toward my country. It requires no taxpayer dollars, its provisions are noncontroversial and it formalizes the United States' moral promise to support Ukrainian territorial integrity and continue to apply economic pressure on Russia.
Today, the U.S. Senate has a unique opportunity to help defend Ukrainian sovereignty against Russian aggression before concluding the current Congress. The House has already passed the bill; and I'm very grateful for those senators who support it, among them John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO Israel signals confidence in its relationship with Biden MORE (D-Conn.) and many others.
Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.) — who has previously given a great deal of support to Ukraine — unfortunately appears to be withholding support for the STAND for Ukraine Act.
This legislation is very important to my country and I hope Corker will ultimately continue his great support of Ukraine. Doing so not only affirms the shared values of humanity with the Ukrainian people who gave their lives for a better future, but also continues the defense against Russia's imperial ambitions.
Why is this important? Because when a petty thief is not punished for small transgressions, it allows him to believe that he can get away with anything.
I am grateful that our two countries have stood together over the past three years, and I know that this steadfast relationship will continue, however the political winds may blow.
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