WASHINGTON - On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) voiced her continued support for Ukraine after traveling to the country with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) last week. Klobuchar and Portman met with senior Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, to receive a firsthand account of Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and brutal war on Ukraine. The senators also went to Bucha and Irpin, the sites of horrific Russian atrocities earlier this spring, as well as Hostomel Airport, where the Ukrainian people claimed an early and key victory against the Russian army.
“We saw firsthand the strength of the Ukrainian people in the face of Vladimir Putin's inhumane barbarism. But just as Putin has shown his true colors, so have the people of Ukraine in brilliant blue and yellow. Over the past six months since the invasion, their bravery and humanity consistently shine through,” said Klobuchar. “We saw up close a nation defending its homeland in a way that few expected would even be possible.”
“We all know this is a hard fight, but America must continue to stand with Ukraine…Our leadership has brought and continues to bring other nations to the table and has allowed Ukraine to continue to fight for its freedom,” Klobuchar continued. “When President Zelenskyy stood in Kyiv and said the simple words, “we are here, we are here,” that video went viral. From that moment on, he and his people inspired the world, a living symbol of courage. So now it is our time to assure the Ukrainians, knowing that they are up against the evil of Vladimir Putin, with the simple words, we are here.”
Klobuchar has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine. In March, Klobuchar traveled to Poland with a bipartisan group of colleagues where they met with diplomats, military leaders, American soldiers, Ukrainian refugees, and aid workers.
In January, Klobuchar traveled to Ukraine with a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and reaffirm the U.S.’ strong bipartisan commitment to a sovereign Ukraine.
A transcript of Klobuchar’s full remarks is given below. Video is available for TV download HERE and for online viewing HERE.
Klobuchar: Mr. President, I rise today to report back from a trip that Senator Portman and I took to Ukraine last week. And the number one thing I'd like to report is that President Zelenskyy personally asked us, and I know that Senator Portman addressed the Senate last night and reported this, but he personally asked us to thank the United States Senate, to thank the people of this country for the generous and unending continuing help that the Senate has given to the Ukraine in their fight for democracy.
This is a country that has given it all. Sometimes we wonder in our own country, what are we going to put on the line for our democracy? Are we going to go over and vote today? How much do we care? There, the people of Ukraine are putting their lives on the line every single day. The ballerina who puts on camo and goes to the front lines, the exhausted workers at the nuclear plant trying to protect not just the country of Ukraine but surrounding countries because it is the biggest nuclear plant in all of Europe, supplying 20 percent of the electricity to the people of Ukraine. They go to work every day under incredible stress and pressure that we can't imagine, trying to keep their country safe while surrounded by 500 Russian troops. We think of a cellist playing beautiful melodies on the front steps of bombed out remnants of a town square to remind people that culture and love still exist in this country. I think of the mass grave that we visited in Bucha. In Irpin, the apartment buildings after apartment buildings burned out. But Ukraine goes on.
We saw firsthand the strength of the Ukrainian people in the face of Vladimir Putin's inhumane barbarism. But just as Putin has shown his true colors, so have the people of Ukraine in brilliant blue and yellow. Over the past six months since the invasion, their bravery and humanity consistently shine through. When Senator Portman and I went to Ukraine last January as part of a group of senators, we were the last group that went in before the war started, with Senator Shaheen and Murphy and Senator Blumenthal and Senator Wicker and Senator Cramer, we witnessed the incredible resolve of the Ukrainian people.
Last week we saw up close a nation defending its homeland in a way that few expected would even be possible. We had an excellent hour-long meeting with President Zelenskyy and the defense minister and the President’s chief of staff. Our country has helped them so much.
We heard the story of how our employees at the embassy, we now have people located in Kyiv, went to get takeout food from a Ukrainian restaurant. When they got the food back, they got the bag back, someone not even knowing who they were, where they were but knew they were American, had written on it: “thanks for the HIMARS.” Along with at least 42 nations from Japan to South Korea to Poland, we have stood with democracy. We have stood with Ukraine.
We also discussed with President Zelenskyy the counteroffensive Ukraine is making to reclaim its territory in the Kherson region. This was one of the first cities Ukraine lost when the war began, but we’ve seen some initial signs of success. Ukrainians have also announced that they have recaptured a few villages and knocked out weapons and radar stations and a pontoon bridge the Russians built.
We are working closely with the Ukrainians to tailor our security assistance to meet their immediate needs on the front lines of the conflict, something more difficult to do at the beginning. Now we have clear lines of communication with the Ukrainian leadership. Of course as I mentioned earlier, the situation on the ground remains incredibly dangerous, especially in the Zaporizhzhya region, home to the largest nuclear plant in Europe which was a central issue that we raised in our discussions with Ukrainian leadership, the plant which as I noted previously provided Ukraine with 20 percent of its power is at significant risk because of Russian shelling.
Just today, Ukraine announced they may have to shut the plant down for fear of a nuclear disaster, as this skeleton crew constantly has to reconnect the lines that have been shelled to not only get the power out to Ukrainians, which Russians are trying to divert to their territories, Russian-held territories, to making sure they have the power to keep the reactor going and safe.
We called on Russia to establish a demilitarized zone around the plant and to allow the team from the IAEA to inspect the plant. We were glad when the team of 14 inspectors visited the plant. Two inspectors will remain there indefinitely. This is all happening as we speak. The IAEA released its report yesterday and said, “while the ongoing shelling has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat of nuclear safety and security.” The agency which is full of nuclear safety experts from around the world noted extensive safety concerns. They urged an immediate stop to fighting onsite and in the vicinity. I continue to call for the demilitarized zone around the plant.
We know that this nuclear incident wouldn't be just an incident. It would be a catastrophe. We all know this is a hard fight, but America must continue to stand with Ukraine. If Vladimir Putin had been allowed just to enter their country, take over an entire democracy, he would never have stopped there. We also held a meeting with U.S. military leaders at the 101st Airborne Division in Poland who are there to underscore our commitment to NATO allies in the defense of Europe. They affirmed the Ukrainians are making great use of the weapons they have supplied in their fight against Russia.
In addition to the direct support we are providing to Ukraine, we're also seeing sanctions are working in Russia as just yesterday the administration reported, our administration, that Moscow is in the process of purchasing rockets and artillery cells from North Korea. It shows how much trouble Russia is in when they are purchasing military equipment from the country of North Korea. This type of desperate purchase says a lot about the state of Russia's supply chain.
In fact, we have seen that as Russia has attacked Ukraine, its actions have been met with almost universal condemnation. It was a key factor in Finland and Sweden's decision to pursue NATO membership, a measure we here in the Senate supported on the floor with a 95-1 vote. The U.S. has provided economic, military, and humanitarian aid since the invasion. Our leadership has brought and continues to bring other nations to the table and has allowed Ukraine to continue to fight for its freedom.
We remember that moments after the invasion began, when President Zelenskyy stood in Kyiv and said the simple words, “we are here, we are here,” that video went viral. We are here. From that moment on, he and his people inspired the world, a living symbol of courage. So now it is our time to assure the Ukrainians, knowing that they are up against the evil of Vladimir Putin, with the simple words, we are here. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield. I yield the floor.