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Former U.S. Congressmen visit Ukraine - July Delegation

2004 Delegations:  July  |   August  |   September  |   October  |   November  |   December
2006 Delegations:  February  |   March

From July 25-31, 2004 a delegation of six former U.S. Congressmen visited Kyiv and cities throughout the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Sumy oblasts to observe the election process in Ukraine.  The delegation consisted of John Conlan (R-AZ), Arlen Erdahl (R-MN), Jack Hightower (D-TX), Gregory Laughlin (R-TX), Andrew Maguire (D-NJ), and Tom Sawyer (D-OH).

Members of the delegation at dinner in Kharkiv
Dinner in Kharkiv
Their visit was sponsored by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) in partnership with the United States Association of Former Members of Congress (USAFMC), and with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  The delegation was accompanied by Cliff Downen and Christina Redko of USUF, and Rebecca Zylberman of the USAFMC.

This was the first of four delegations scheduled to visit Ukraine during the next three months leading up to the first round of presidential elections on October 31, 2004. This project demonstrates USUF's unique involvement in Ukraine, as we are one of the few organizations focusing on the entire election process throughout the period of the campaign.

During their first full day in Kyiv, the delegation met with representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the U.S. Embassy, and members of Viktor Yushchenko's and Viktor Yanukovych's campaign staff to discuss the political situation in Ukraine and events surrounding the presidential campaign and elections.

The Congressmen meet with Rada Deputy Stepan Havrysh
Meeting with Havrysh

From there, the delegation traveled to Kharkiv, which would be home base for the next three days. The delegation was split up into three pairs and traveled to villages in the Kharkiv, Poltava and Sumy oblasts, where they met with village and regional authorities, representatives of political parties, media, and local NGOs. The delegation stressed the importance that the forthcoming presidential elections be fair to all candidates and parties. They asked local officials to uphold the laws of Ukraine and ensure that every Ukrainian citizen has an opportunity to vote for the candidate of his or her choice and that the ballots be counted properly. Some citizens, including representatives of political parties and the media, reported numerous violations of Ukrainian law early on in the election process. They reported that hospital employees, teachers, employees of local government, and employees of private concerns were being threatened with loss of their jobs if they didn't sign a petition in support of a particular candidate.

Congressmen Conlan and Maguire meet with the Mayor of Lebedyn.
Meeting with Lebedyn mayor

Ukrainian citizens showed a high interest in the election and want to participate and freely express their opinion. However, very few thought that their votes would be counted correctly. A serious problem in all three oblasts is that much of the press is owned by the village or regional government and is not always free to cover the news objectively. The few private news sources available publish under difficult circumstances and with limited circulations. Thus, many people are denied access to a free press.

During the third and final day in Kharkiv, representatives of the delegation met with Deputy Governor Oleksandr Kryvtsov, who noted his region's close relationship with the U.S. (Kharkiv is partnered with Cincinnati, Ohio in the USUF's Community Partnership Project), its strong economic growth, and the importance of all presidential elections in Ukraine. The delegates stressed the important role that free and fair elections will have in shaping Ukraine's image in the world community and in attracting foreign investment.

In all, the delegation visited Lebedyn, Trostianets, and Okhtyrka in the Sumy Oblast; Dykanka, Karlivka, and Chutove in the Poltava Oblast; and Merefa, Vovchansk, and Kupiansk in the Kharkiv Oblast.

Congressman Hightower is presented with his elections observer certificate by Chairman Kivalov
Hightower and Kivalov

Upon their return to Kyiv, the delegates met with Serhiy Kivalov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission. Their representative, Gregory Laughlin, reported on the election violations they observed and heard about during their week of travel and asked the Commission to look into the allegations and ensure that the law of Ukraine be followed throughout Ukraine. Upon conclusion of the dialogue, each member of the delegation was presented with a certificate registering them as official election observers.

For additional information on this project, please contact Christina Redko at credko@usukraine.org.



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