WASHINGTON - In Ukraine this week, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.) said he has found a country eager for new elections and government reform - but with a "sword hanging over them" in the form of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Putin does not care about anything other than trying to expand Russia into the old Soviet Union," Gerlach, of Chester County, said Wednesday from Kiev.

Gerlach, who is cochairman of the Ukraine caucus in the House, met this week with members of the Ukrainian parliament,

the country's acting president and prime minister, and civic groups. He said that the country's leaders realize they need to end corruption and that the nation "is very stable," even as Russia looms as a threat.

He also said Jewish groups in Ukraine told him they don't fear widespread, systemic anti-Semitism - a growing worry in many quarters.

"That's not what we found in our visit here," Gerlach said.

The congressman, who recently announced that he won't seek a seventh term, visited the country this week as part of a House delegation and is returning Thursday.

- Jonathan TamariEndText