House slams Russia for Ukraine intervention

The House voted Tuesday to condemn Russia for using military force to secure Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which may soon become a part of Russia.

Members voted 402-7 to pass H.Res. 499, a non-binding resolution that says Russia's intervention was a "violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity." It was opposed by just five Republicans and two Democrats, and one Republican voted "present."

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The vote comes just one day before interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is scheduled to meet with President Obama and members of Congress in Washington. The resolution passed after both Republicans and Democrats used the debate to call on Russia to pull out of Crimea.

"This resolution is an important part of a larger effort to aid Ukraine, and impose real costs on Russia," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). "To give Russia something to weigh in the balance, something to take into account for its unacceptable action in the Crimea section of Ukraine."

Royce noted that the House approved legislation last week to back $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, but he said more should be done. Like others, Royce suggested allowing more exports of natural gas to Ukraine to help free Ukraine from its dependence on Russia for energy.

"We should end these self-imposed sanctions on our energy exports to Ukraine," Royce said. "This would undermine Putin's influence, it would bolster our allies throughout Europe, and create jobs at home."

Royce sponsored the resolution along with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the committee. Engel did not participate in the debate, but other Democrats indicated their clear support for the language, and tougher steps if needed.

"If Russia continues to refuse to pull back troops to its bases, there must be further consequences," said Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.). "These consequences must be severe, including trade and economic sanctions, and expulsion from the G-8."

The resolution says the Obama administration should boycott the G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia, to meet without Russia in a G-7 meeting, and to consider expelling Russia from the G-8.

"[T]he Russian Federation's military intervention in Crimea represents a reckless escalation of its long-standing efforts to pressure Ukraine through political, diplomatic, and economic means to reduce its ties to Europe and the West and force it into a closer association with Russia," it reads.

It concludes by saying the House condemns Russia for its actions, and that Russia should remove its troops from Crimea and stop supporting separatist forces in Ukraine.

Despite Congress's warning, the Crimean parliament has already voted to become part of Russia, and a referendum on that question will be held Sunday, March 16.

Ukraine has voted to remove its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and has scheduled a late May presidential election. Yatsenyuk was named interim Prime Minister through the election.