Cardin to monitor Ukrainian elections

Sen. Ben Cardin will join a congressional delegation headed to Ukraine this weekend to monitor the country's presidential election, which is taking place amid that country's tense standoff with Russia.

The Maryland Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will join Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and other lawmakers taking part in an international effort to ensure voters are allowed to choose the country's new leader without intimidation.

"We're there to support the Ukrainians -- that's the message we'll carry with our physical presence," said Cardin. "We want to make sure people can get to the polling places unobstructed, that the mechanism of the elections are working...and make sure that the people aren't intimidated from voting."

Ukrainians are voting for a leader to succeed Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia earlier this year amid unrest in the country. The interim government in Kiev has been wrestling with an international crisis that has unfolded since pro-Russian troops invaded Crimea in February.

The election has become increasingly dangerous, particularly in eastern Ukraine, where officials have said pro-Russian gunmen are working to undermine voting. Cardin, an outspoken critic of human rights abuses in Russia, said he and other lawmakers will visit and monitor polling places around the country.

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