U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) stood with Ukrainian leaders and officials throughout the state at his Jersey City office to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of their country.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Menendez noted that Ukraine has changed greatly in the wake of the war.
“ … Vladimir Putin, in his fantasy of restoring the Soviet Union Empire, decided that Ukraine should be part of Russia. He decided to deny Ukraine’s own unique history,” Menendez said at the podium, recalling that the first Russian attacks began on February 24th.
“ … He’s recruited Russian criminals to fight in his army. He’s unleashed wave after wave of missile attacks targeting civilians and critical infrastructure. He has committed unspeakable war crimes. He’s forced more than eight million Ukrainian to flee their county and seek refuge. The Ukrainian spirit has not been broken.”
New Jersey’s senior senator also noted that many refugees have come to New Jersey, noting that his parents fled Cuba to come to America.
“I am the son of refugees who fled a dictatorship to come to this country. I know the heartache. The United States and New Jersey, in particular, are here to welcome and support you,” he said.
Furthermore, Menendez lauded local Ukrainian advocates and their work to help their homeland, noting that he urged the Biden administration to give advanced weapons to Ukraine, as well as for Russia to be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he also visited the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to push for Russia to be tried for war crimes.
“There must be accountability. You must have prosecution at the end of the day,” he asserted.
He explained he introduced legislation to target the Wagner mercenary group, since he feels there are mercenaries operating in many troubled countries across the world.
“We must continue to support them. We cannot falter. We must help Ukraine in every dimension. We must help with reforms and reconstruction now.”
He further stated that hey should join the European Union EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“It has been a long year for folks who have been on the front lines. We cannot waiver in our support of their efforts,” U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez (D-8), the senator’s son, said. He also joined in praising local Ukrainian advocates.
U.S. Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator Erin E. McKee added that Congress passed four bills to send financial aid to Ukraine.
“There have been four supplemental appropriations bills passed by Congress that have allowed the u s to present a strong and united front in assisting Ukraine. Foreign assistance is a critical tool to realize the United States’s goals of helping Ukraine win,” she stated.
“We are investing in Ukraine’s economy and revitalizing it. We are repairing the country’s energy and heating systems to counter Putin’s attempts to wield winter as a weapon. We are protecting public health… while at the same time advancing progress on critical reforms … We continue to fight corruption at every level.”
She said they are boosting agricultural production and finding new ways to export grain. A global food security crisis has developed due to problems shipping Ukrainian grain, as well as pointing out that 430 children have died in the war.
“USAID’s partners on the ground … have documented over 20,000 instances of alleged war crimes and human rights abuses. Vladimir Putin drastically underestimated the Ukrainian people,” McKee continued.
Jersey City Board of Education President Natalia Ioffee noted last year they held a demonstration at the Katyn Memorial last year to protest the beginning of the war.
She explained the Ukrainian community across the world has been working hard to help their homeland.
“This collective action helped us shape a new hope … I have never been more proud to be Ukrainian,” Ioffe said.
The group then walked to the Hudson River waterfront to place a wreath on the pier and drop sunflowers into the Hudson River in memory of the Ukrainians who have lost their lives in the war.
Assemblyman William Sampson (D-31) and Hudson County Commissioner Anthony Romano were among the other local dignitaries that attended the ceremony.