Thomas Melia: Ukraine’s government ‘has failed to consistently respect the rights of freedom of speech and press’

US-UKRAINE-CONGRESS-HEARING Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Thomas O. Melia’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 15 in Washington, D.C., regarding Ukraine’s ongoing political crisis. 

Thank you, Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Corker, and distinguished
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for inviting me to testify on
the situation in Ukraine. We very much appreciate the attention you are according
to a country at the center of Europe and a valued partner for the United States.
Last week the Senate unanimously passed Senator Murphy’s Senate Resolution
319, which came out of this Committee: Expressing support for the Ukrainian
people in light of President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an Association
Agreement with the European Union.
I am pleased to provide additional context from my Bureau, the Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights and Labor which, in partnership with the Bureau of
European and Eurasian Affairs, our Embassy in Kyiv, the Department of Justice
and with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has been in
direct and frequent engagement during the past three years with the Government of
Ukraine and Ukrainian civil society in bilateral dialogues on democracy and rule of
law issues.
As my colleague Assistant Secretary Nuland noted these are indeed challenging
times for the people of Ukraine and for people everywhere who care about the
future of Ukraine. Many of us continue to monitor the ongoing developments in
the center of Kyiv on the “EuroMaidan” and in other cities across Ukraine that
have come to symbolize a fundamental struggle for economic opportunity, political
freedom, and personal expression.
While the protests may have lost some of their intensity I believe the embers that
sparked the protests in late November are still burning and will not be easily
extinguished. The tens of thousands of people who turned out again this past
weekend in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine are testimony to this.

Senators McCain and Murphy have shared their experiences in the days after they
returned from their December 15 visit to Kyiv, which they described as
“unforgettable and moving,” standing on the stage overlooking the Maidan and
addressing a crowd estimated at 500,000 – some of whom shouted cheers of
“Thank you, USA!”
The U.S. stands with the Ukrainian people in solidarity in their struggle for
fundamental human rights and a more accountable government. To that end, we
call on the government to intensify its investigations and to bring to justice those
responsible for inciting incidents of violence, particularly on November 30 and
December 11. Violence and intimidation have no place in a democratic state. We
urge the Government of Ukraine to ensure that those who have led or participated
in peaceful protests are not subjected to prosecution or other forms of political
repression.
At the same time, we will continue to engage with the Government of Ukraine.
Ukraine remains an important partner for the United States. Our overall approach
to Ukraine complements what our EU partners are also seeking in their Association
Agreement — a Ukraine that is more responsive to its people and that offers its
people the opportunities that a growing, free market economy based on the rule of
law provides.

The U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership signed in 2008 demonstrates the
broad range of our relations, from economic and defense reform, to energy, to
strengthening democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. The fact that the
Charter has endured — even after changes in Administrations in both our
governments since 2008 — is testimony to the enduring nature of our partnership.
Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians
as they developed democratic skills and institutions, strengthened the rule of law,
and promoted civic participation and good governance, all of which are
preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations. We have invested
over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure,
prosperous and democratic Ukraine. Of that amount well over $815 million was for
democracy and exchange programs. Much of this is being implemented through a
range of technical assistance programs and working with nongovernmental actors
in Ukraine.

Since 2009 when President Obama took office, the U.S. Government has provided
over $184 million in Governing Justly and Democratically (GJD) assistance to
Ukraine. This includes democracy programs managed by USAID and the State 3

Department, and exchange programs managed by the State Department and the
Open World Leadership Center.

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