UKRAINE (WJZ)–As Ukrainians prepare to elect a new president this weekend, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin is there as part of a  congressional delegation to monitor the vote. The election is taking place amid the country’s tense standoff with Russia.

Monique Griego has more from Cardin.

At a news conference Saturday, Cardin spoke out against what he called Russia’s illegal actions, and vowed that the United States would continue to support Ukraine.

In the days leading up to Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine, deadly firefights erupted in the eastern part of country.

While he’s admitted it’s a dangerous trip, U.S. Sen. Cardin and a large group of congressional leaders are in the country to monitor the vote.

“Our main reason for participating is to express our support for Ukrainian people,” said Cardin.

Cardin, who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will join other lawmakers to ensure voters are allowed to choose the country’s new leader without intimidation. At a news conference Saturday, he lashed out at Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“If you’re looking at who’s responsible for the crisis that’s been created, look no further than Mr. Putin and Russia. What he has is just beyond any acceptable international norm,” Cardin said.

Ukrainians are voting for a leader to succeed Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia earlier this year amid unrest in the country.

Putin says Russia will recognize the outcome of Ukraine’s presidential vote this weekend.

Ukrainian officials hope Sunday’s vote for a new president will unify the divided nation.

But Cardin acknowledged its outcome will be felt internationally as well.

“We are particularly concerned about the impact from Russia, and we will obviously be watching very closely what happens tomorrow,” Cardin said.

Cardin and the other lawmakers will visit and monitor polling places around the country.

After the election, Cardin and the rest of the delegation will report to the international community whether or not they observed a free, fair and open election.

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