U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) voted yes on two bills supporting Ukraine Tuesday night. HR 4152, the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014, supports Ukraine and stands up to Russian aggression through a comprehensive package of loan guarantees, aid, and sanctions on persons responsible for certain abuses. S 2183, United States International Programming to Ukraine and Neighboring Regions, counters Russian propaganda by supporting increased U.S. international broadcasting by Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and the Voice of America.
"The legislation features strong sanctions against Russians directly responsible for the aggression -- and against Ukrainians undermining the democratic process," said Smith. "It is these criminal officials, including Yanukovych and his cronies, who have placed Ukraine in the position Russia has exploited."
Several times in March the House voted on related Ukraine legislation, which Smith voted for and spoke in favor of. These bills were then subject to the process of reconciliation with related Senate legislation, and the House vote on April 1 represents final congressional passage of this legislation. The bills passed late April 1, and are awaiting signature by the President. S 2183 passed 399-12. HR 4152 passed 378-34.
"We should support the faith-based groups that played such a prominent role in the democracy movement," Smith added, referring to the sections of the legislation which directs the Secretary of State to support civil society in Ukraine. Referring to reports of religious persecution in Russian-occupied Ukraine, Smith said, "This legislation is a clear step in the right direction. No piece of legislation will do it all, we have to appeal to the Russians to stop this, to cease its persecution of people in Crimea."
On February 10 the House of Representatives passed HRes 447 (supporting the democratic and European aspirations of the people of Ukraine, and their right to choose their own future free of intimidation). Rep. Smith voted in favor of this resolution as well, and led the House debate on the issue with a floor statement in strong support of the resolution.
A senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the subcommittee responsible for overseeing human rights issues, Rep. Smith has spoken out a number of times in strong support of the Euromaidan demonstrators, the post-Yanukovych government, and for Ukraine's territorial sovereignty, including over Crimea. In recent months he has discussed the Ukrainian crisis with officials of the new government, as well as Ukrainian religious leaders, including Patriarch Filaret, Patriarch Sviatoslav, and Rabbi Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine.
Smith is a leader in human rights legislation and the Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an agency that monitors and advocates on human rights in the 57 states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including Ukraine.