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 JohnsonTrump signs executive order creating new VA office Trump tax plan prompts GOP fears about deficit Lawmakers targeted as district politics shift 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 MurphyDem senator lists victims of gun violence during Trump's NRA speech Democrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Senators get North Korea briefing in unusual WH visit 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 DurbinLawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Democrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Senators warn of 'dangerous' cuts to International Affairs Budget MORE (D-Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: Trump set to sign offshore drilling order Trump's FDA nominee clears key Senate committee Pruitt drops out of GOP fundraiser after ethics complaint MORE (D-R.I.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoTrump shouldn’t cater to a tech industry that hates him Poll: Sanders most popular senator in the US The animal advocate MORE (R-Wyo.), John HoevenJohn HoevenCongress nears deal on help for miners Overnight Energy: Lawmakers work toward deal on miners’ benefits Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE (R-N.D.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTrudeau, Trump speak for second night about US-Canada trade Trump says he may break up 9th Circuit Court after rulings go against him Trump administration weighing order to withdraw from NAFTA 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.