Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, the people of Kyiv and so many cities and towns throughout Ukraine are right now struggling, praying, and risking--some of them really risking their lives on the Maidan for justice and human dignity.
The government's violent crackdown has led to the deaths of at least four protestors, and countless beatings, arrests, detentions, kidnappings or harassment of activists, journalists, medics and lawyers.
I want to join many of my colleagues in calling on the Ukrainian government to stop, now, these attacks on human life and the basic human rights of free expression, assembly and association--and immediately to release those detained for peaceful actions and account for missing persons.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that we should urge Ukrainians to find a peaceful, political settlement of the crisis through meaningful negotiations between the government and the opposition in order to get Ukraine back on the road to democracy. As to association with Europe, it is not our government's place to say what the Ukrainian government or people should do either way on this point, above all since we don't know what arrangements are on offer. But we do stand up for the right of the Ukrainian people to determine this according to their own constitution and laws, free from coercive pressures by any foreign government.
While the current Ukrainian government has committed grave injustices in the course of this crisis, I am encouraged by signs that it is taking steps to resolve the crisis, including the revocation of the onerous January 16 anti-protest laws and the resignation of the government.
The people of Ukraine have endured tremendous suffering over the course of the last century including two world wars and 70 years of Soviet brutality, most starkly illustrated by Stalin's genocidal famine which resulted in the deaths of millions. With independence came new-found freedoms, but these have been challenged by corruption of grotesque proportions. The long-suffering Ukrainian people deserve better--they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Given the heroic strength and character and democratic maturity the Ukrainian people are showing in this crisis, I am confident that they will not be denied a more democratic future.