Associated Press
Friday, March 14, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s John Hoeven is one of eight U.S. senators traveling to Ukraine to get a firsthand look at the situation there.

Russian troops have occupied the Ukrainian province of Crimea. The pro-Russian Crimea region will vote Sunday on whether to secede, and possibly join Russia, in anger over new leaders in Kiev who seek to forge stronger economic ties with Europe.

Hoeven, R-N.D., said his focus will be on how the situation affects agriculture, trade and energy ties between the U.S. and Ukraine. Hoeven organized trade missions to the former Soviet Republic in 2006 and 2008 when he was governor. The North Dakota Trade Office maintains a full-time Ukrainian trade representative. The senator plans to meet with him as well as representatives of North Dakotan businesses that are operating in Ukraine.

Hoeven said he believes building strong energy and trade relations with Ukraine can be keys to resolving the situation.

“A healthy business partnership is one of the most durable foundations for peace in the world,” he said in a statement. “We need to find out what exactly is happening on the ground there and respond accordingly, in partnership with the Ukrainian people. Our country has always stood for freedom and self-determination, and the Ukraine is now looking to us and our allies in the European Union to help them find a solution to their challenges in this very difficult time.”

Hoeven did not say exactly when the group would be traveling to Crimea.

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