Senators up pressure on Putin in Ukraine

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.

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“This is the person that stated that the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century was the breakup of the Soviet Union,” said Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton links Trump to 'alt-right' in Reno John McCain: No longer a profile in courage Clinton: Trump gives rise to 'fringe element' stoking racial discord MORE (R-Ariz.) of Putin. “We have to treat him for what he is. That does not reignite the Cold War, but it means we enact steps that make it clear ... that his ambitions will not be realized by the great community of nations that would resist him.”

“There’s one person I hold accountable for this aggression. It’s Vladimir Putin,” added Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonSenate Dems' campaign arm knocks GOP for Trump support GOP chairmen subpoena tech firms tied to Clinton's email server Watchdog: Pentagon needs to update FOIA policies 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 MurphyThe Trail 2016: Trump works to widen his appeal Lawmakers amplify criticism of US support for Saudi bombing campaign Congress must take action to block weapon sales to Saudi Arabia 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 DurbinTrump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration Dem wants hearing on EpiPen price hikes Legislators privacy fight coincides with FCC complaint MORE (D-Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senator: Clinton may command 'majority of the Republican caucus' Banking association backs financial transparency bill Shift in care could reverse the opioid epidemic MORE (D-R.I.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP blasts EPA on mine spill anniversary Investigators open criminal probe into EPA mine waste spill McAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat MORE (R-Wyo.), John HoevenJohn HoevenMajority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention Death threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA MORE (R-N.D.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakePence earns GOP raves in first month as Trump VP GOP senator: Trump needs to offer specific apologies Reid: Dems could force Senate vote on Garland 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. 

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