ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland U.S. Senator Ben Cardin is part of a congressional delegation that left for Ukraine Friday to monitor the country’s presidential election. It’s taking place amid the country’s tense standoff with Russia.

Mary Bubala reports the violence continues.

Overnight fighting continued near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk on Friday, with houses in a small village damaged by shelling from Ukrainian army positions.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin acknowledged it’s dangerous for him to visit Ukraine, but he’s headed there anyway.

“We want to make sure that people have the opportunity to vote and their votes are recorded properly, that they’re counted right,” said Cardin.

Cardin is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He will join other lawmakers to ensure voters are allowed to choose the country’s new leader without intimidation.

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will recognize the outcome of Ukraine’s election. Ukrainian officials hope that Sunday’s vote for a new president will unify the divided nation.

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

“We’re with them. We’re with their right of self determination, free from interference from their neighboring countries such as Russia, that they have the right to choose their own leaders,” said Cardin. “And we believe the Ukrainians are going to be out in great numbers.”

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

The election is being held Sunday in Ukraine.

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