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 JohnsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy Overnight Finance: Trump expected to pick Steven Mnuchin for Treasury | Budget chair up for grabs | Trump team gets deal on Carrier jobs 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 MurphyWrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration Dem on Trump's foreign policy moves: 'That's how wars start' House passes medical cures bill 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 eye early exit from Washington Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump Warren pushes Dems to get tough with Trump MORE (D-Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGOP wants to move fast on Sessions Dem senator backing Sessions for attorney general Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination MORE (D-R.I.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP lawmaker outlines goal to repeal and replace ObamaCare Pressure builds on M ObamaCare funding case as others wait GOP unveils bill to block ObamaCare 'bailout' MORE (R-Wyo.), John HoevenJohn HoevenFeds deny permit for Dakota Access pipeline Dem senator to meet with Trump Overnight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up MORE (R-N.D.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeSenators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump Interest groups keep the political ads coming Overnight Healthcare: Cures bill sails through House | Walden frontrunner for Energy and Commerce gavel 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.