Members of Congress to spend Memorial Day in Ukraine


A member of the election commission mops the floor of a polling station ahead of the upcoming Ukrainian presidential election at the Octyabr village in the Donetsk region on May 22, 2014. The Ukrainian presidential election will be held on May 25, 2014. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

At least six members of Congress are headed to eastern Ukraine this holiday weekend to observe the critical presidential elections in the conflict-ridden country.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is leading a delegation to Kiev that includes Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas). The two senators announced they’ll be holding a media availability there on Saturday ahead of the election.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) are going with a group from the International Republican Institute. The National Democratic Institute has former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), and former congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.) on the ground.

Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said at a daily press briefing this week that the international Helsinki Commission has already sent “100 long-term observers to Ukraine and an additional 900 short-term observers,” and the U.S. is providing one-tenth of them.

The U.S. has also provided $11.4 million to support the elections, which will pay for “a range of activities on the ground,” Psaki said.

After Sunday’s election, Cardin is off to Asia and Portman to neighboring Poland for congressional fact-finding. The others are coming straight home, their offices said.

Andrii Deshchytsia, Ukraine’s acting minister for foreign affairs, offered a Twitter welcome to the foreigners descending on the country:

After the election, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), boosting his foreign policy creds (ahead of 2016?), is stopping in Ukraine as part of a larger visit to other eastern Europe countries and Israel.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.

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