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Senator Toomey Calls on Russia to Release Ukrainian Crew and Reaffirms American Commitment to People of Ukraine

November 28, 2018
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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is backing a bipartisan measure demanding the release of all Ukrainian sailors unlawfully attacked and taken prisoner by Russia near the Kerch Strait in the Sea of Azov on Sunday. During the confrontation, one Ukrainian ship was damaged, two were captured, and numerous Ukrainian sailors were injured.

"Vladimir Putin is a lawless autocrat who has no respect for the rights of his own people, let alone international laws and standards," said Senator Toomey. "The overt aggression against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov is the latest in a long series of attacks that have violated the sovereignty of Ukraine. I stand ready to work with my colleagues and the President to assist our Ukrainian allies and punish Russian aggression."

Senator Toomey has strongly condemned Russian aggression and supported Ukrainian sovereignty dating back to the Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014, which was introduced shortly after Russia illegally invaded Crimea. Since then, he has also backed efforts to provide arms to Ukraine while supporting sanctions against Russia.

S.Res.709 is led by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and is supported by Senators John Barrasso (D-Wyo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

The full text of the resolution can be found here and below.

Whereas, on November 24, 2018, Ukraine commemorated the 85th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, known as the Holodomor, in which millions of Ukrainians perished under Soviet policies designed to break Ukrainian resistance to Soviet communist rule and forced collectivization;

Whereas, on November 25, 2018, Russian Federation military forces fired on three Ukrainian Navy vessels attempting to transit the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov;

Whereas the three Ukrainian ships were seized by Russian Federation forces, and Ukrainian government officials stated that at least six of the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors were wounded in the incident;

Whereas the Russian Federation's seizure of the Ukrainian vessels is a blatant violation of its commitments under international law and a 2003 Agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on cooperation in the use of the sea of Azov and the strait of Kerch;;

Whereas, on May 15, 2018, the Government of the Russian Federation completed construction of a road and rail bridge over the Kerch Strait, connecting Russia with Crimea in Ukraine, and has systematically harassed Ukrainian and international shipping transiting between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov;

Whereas, in March 2014, Russian Federation forces invaded and occupied Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, in full contravention of the Russian Federation's commitments under the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act condemning the threat or use of force as means of altering international borders;

Whereas the Government of the Russian Federation has increased considerably its military presence in occupied Crimea since 2014, including increasing military personnel to an estimated 28,000-29,000, adding six new submarines and three frigates to the Black Seas Fleet, and deploying S-400 long-range air defense battalions;

Whereas the Government of the Russian Federation continues its efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine, bears responsibility for the ongoing conflict that has cost the lives of over 10,000 Ukrainians, and recently orchestrated illegitimate leadership elections in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions;

Whereas Section 1234 of Public Law 115-91 authorizes the Secretary of Defense in coordination with the Secretary of State to provide appropriate security assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces; and

Whereas, on July 25, 2018, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued the Crimea Declaration, cementing United States nonrecognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea and calling upon Russia to uphold its commitments under international law regarding the territorial integrity of other states: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate-

(1) strongly condemns the provocative actions of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait against the Ukrainian navy;

(2) calls upon the Government of Russia to immediately release all Ukrainian crew members and vessels and to cease its harassment of Ukrainian and international shipping transiting the Kerch Strait;

(3) stresses that the behavior of the Government of the Russian Federation is destabilizing for the entire region and invites further escalations;

(4) urges members of the international community to unite in opposition to the actions of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait, as they infringe upon fundamental principles of international law affecting all nations;

(5) welcomes and affirms Secretary of State Pompeo's Crimea Declaration announcing United States policy to never recognize Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea; and

(6) reaffirms the unwavering support of the people and the Government of the United States for the people of Ukraine and Ukraine's territorial integrity.

7) calls upon the President and the entire Administration to implement an all of government approach to forcefully express opposition to the Russian Federation's November 25, 2018 attack on Ukrainian forces at every opportunity.