A delegation of senators looked to up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday, as tensions around Ukraine heightened.
The eight lawmakers blasted the Russian leader while traveling through Ukraine and called Sunday's secession referendum in Crimea rigged and illegitimate. Some of the senators asked for the U.S. to provide military equipment to Ukrainian troops, and the group vowed crippling economic sanctions against Russia until the nation pulled back.
“There’s one person I hold accountable for this aggression. It’s Vladimir Putin,” added Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonGOP plan: Link Dems to an email scandal GOP senator: Dems making ‘concerted effort to produce fraudulent votes’ Club for Growth: Anti-Trump spending proved to be 'good call' MORE (R-Wis.). “If there’s further bloodshed, there’s also one person I will hold accountable.”
The bipartisan group hoped their presence in Ukraine would underline the united support the U.S. is providing to the nation, ushering in a new government while Russian forces are amassing along its border.
“We are standing here united,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyPodesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs Dem senator calls for end of Saudi support in Yemen after funeral bombing Dems to McConnell: Pass 'clean' extension of Iran sanctions MORE (D-Conn.). “There will be consequences for the actions that have already been taken ... there’s a price to be paid for this type of aggression.”
The other senators in the delegation were Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Wikileaks: Durbin pushed unknown Warren for Obama bank regulator The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseMoney for nothing: Rethinking CO2 Dem takes Exxon fight to GOP chairman's backyard Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP MORE (D-R.I.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Black ties and french fries mingle at DC's Meridian Ball GOP seeks to block ObamaCare settlements with insurers MORE (R-Wyo.), John HoevenJohn HoevenGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Overnight Defense: White House threatens to veto Gitmo bill GOP senators fight female draft in defense bill MORE (R-N.D.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeReport: Investor visa program mainly funds wealthy areas High anxiety for GOP Five takeaways from final debate MORE (R-Ariz.).
While McCain and Durbin have backed sending weapons to Ukraine, no senator suggested that the U.S get directly involved in a military response.
The group dismissed the legitimacy of Sunday’s election on the future of Crimea, as McCain called it “phony” and Durbin described it as “Soviet-style.”
Their criticism came shortly after Russia vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning the referendum. China abstained from the vote, but all other voting nations backed it.