There are several hotspots of conflict across the globe – turn on the news and it’s hard to miss the stories. Eastern Ukraine is one of these. After months of protests and violence as well as the collapse of the government, a portion of Ukraine voted to secede and join Russia early this year. Now, several areas in eastern Ukraine remain under control of pro-Russian separatists and fighting between Ukrainian troops and these rebels continues.
On July 17, tragedy struck over the skies of Ukraine and changed the course of many lives in just moments. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, was shot down killing all 298 passengers and crew members. The plane was taken down by a surface-to-air missile over the unstable area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that there is evidence that Russia supplied the separatists with the weapon used to shoot down Flight MH17.
The treacherous acts of this group and the destruction left behind are deplorable. In response, I signed on as a cosponsor of a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning as terrorists the Ukrainian separatists, illegally occupying the city of Donetsk and the surrounding territory, for shooting down a civilian passenger airliner. The resolution, which has gained bipartisan support, also condemns the government of Russia for supplying the arms used in this deadly attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support of the separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Russian government’s possible direct involvement in the MH17 incident is extremely alarming.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department confirmed that there is “evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions.” Additionally, officials said that there is also evidence that Russia plans to deliver more rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine.
Russia is no stranger to conflict and under Vladimir Putin’s leadership has only increased tensions with much of the Western world. Russia’s aggressive actions and continued interference in Ukraine are unacceptable. Instead of fueling violence and terrorism, I urge the separatists in eastern Ukraine to give up control of the area to the Ukrainian government. Russia must also halt attempts to undermine the Ukrainian government or supply weapons to the separatists.
The United States needs to present an effective foreign policy to confront conflict in this region. As we continue to learn more about Flight MH17, the U.S. must work with the international community to support the Ukrainian government and pressure Russia to take a step back. I urge the U.S. and the international community to condemn Russia for their actions. Our nation’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy.