WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee and member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, concluded a congressional delegation visit to Ukraine, one of America’s closest strategic partners in the region. This visit comes at the same time the country is recognizing its five-year anniversary of their successful Revolution of Dignity. During her time there, Ernst met with senior Ukrainian military and government leaders, including the Minister of Defense.
As the subcommittee chairman, Senator Ernst has oversight over numerous commands and agencies within the Department of Defense, including U.S. Special Operations Command. While in Ukraine, Ernst visited a special operations training center in Berdychiv, where the U.S. and Ukrainian special operations forces are working closely together to improve recruitment, retention, training, and overall military tactics. In addition, she was able to see and hear firsthand the threats Ukrainian forces are facing on the Eastern front while spending time at the Joint Forces Operations Headquarters in Kramatorsk.
Senator Ernst also met with members of civil society organizations and the parliament to discuss governance, combating corruption, and ongoing reforms such as decentralization.
“Being on the ground in Ukraine allowed me to directly convey to our ally that the United States will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with free, democratic governments. While Russia continues its aggression towards its neighbors and their sovereignty, the United States is here to promote good governance and provide greater military partnership with our ally, specifically through the development of Ukrainian special operations forces,” said Senator Joni Ernst.
Senator Ernst during a meeting with Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Army General Viktor Muzhenko.
Senator Ernst shaking hands with Ukraine Minister of Defense, Stepan Poltorak.
Senator Ernst visiting with American and Ukrainian Special Operations Forces in Berdychiv.
On November 21, 2013, peaceful protests began on Independence Square (Maidan) in Kyiv, Ukraine. The protests were against the decision by the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych to suspend signing the Ukraine-European Union (EU) Association Agreement, and to instead pursue closer ties with the Russian Federation. The Maidan protesters stood against the corruption of the Yanukovych regime and wanted to make it clear that they favored integration with the EU.
Throughout the three month long protest, the Ukrainian police force persistently engaged in acts of violence against the protesters, including the burning down of the Trade Union Building in Kyiv, which had been used as a makeshift headquarters for the protestors. At the height of the violence, Yanukovych’ police forces opened fire on a crowd of protesters, resulting in the deaths of more than a hundred civilians, who are now remembered in Ukraine as the “Heavenly Hundred.”
On February 21, 2014, President Yanukovych fled to Russia and Ukraine’s special police force was dissolved. In response to Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, the Russian Federation launched military aggression against Ukraine, illegally seizing the Crimean Peninsula and large swaths of the country’s east in an effort to stifle its pro-democracy development.
Senator Ernst recently joined Senate Ukraine Caucus Co-Chair, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), on a bipartisan resolution commemorating the five-year anniversary of the conclusion of the Revolution of Dignity. The resolution recognizes the bravery of the Ukrainian people and those killed during the revolution; congratulates Ukraine on the progress the country has made since 2014; condemns Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine; and, encourages further reforms to align with Euro-Atlantic norms.