Lawmakers condemn Putin, call for crippling sanctions on Russia amid military operation

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) addresses reporters after a key vote regarding bipartisan infrastructure legislation on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Lawmakers condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a military operation in Ukraine late Wednesday night, calling for more severe consequences to be imposed on Russia. 

“Tonight, my heart is heavy for the people of Ukraine,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement.
“As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am committed to ensuring that the United States upholds our responsibility to exact maximum costs on Putin, the Russian economy, and those who enabled and facilitated this trampling of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called the move by Russia “an evil, panicked move of weakness.”

“Putin’s decision to invade is an evil, panicked move of weakness and will be his defining mistake. The Ukrainian people will fight for as long as it takes to secure their nation from this foreign tyrant, and the United States will stand with them in this fight,” Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted late Wednesday.

“We must be unceasingly in our assistance to the Ukrainian people. We must levy crippling sanctions on Russia,” Murphy added. “And we must cut off Putin and his cronies from the global economy. A strong, swift response is vital.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the “harshest economic penalties” need to be imposed against Russia.

“America and our allies must answer the call to protect freedom by subjecting Putin and Russia to the harshest economic penalties, by expelling them from global institutions, and by committing ourselves to the expansion and modernization of our national defense,” the Utah Republican said in a statement issued through Twitter.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged President Biden to impose tougher sanctions, including removing Russia from the SWIFT banking system.

“We pray for the people of Ukraine as they defend against Putin’s attempt to rebuild the old Soviet Union. Biden must stand up to Putin and immediately levy severe sanctions against Russia — starting with removal from the SWIFT banking system,” the Tennessee Republican tweeted. “The USA stands with Ukraine. ”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement issued through Twitter, he believed that it was not too late for Russia to reverse course and pursue diplomacy instead. But he acknowledged “we can no longer hold out hope that this standoff will be resolved peacefully.”

“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy not only for Ukraine, but for the Russian people as well. They will pay a steep cost for Putin’s reckless ambition, in blood and in economic harm.” 

The swift reactions from lawmakers comes after Putin announced early Thursday morning that Russia would launch a military operation in Ukraine.

The development followed an emotional appeal made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he urged for peace.

“The Ukrainian people want peace,” Zelensky said. “The government in Ukraine wants peace and is doing everything it can to build it.”

“Neighbors always enrich each other culturally,” the Ukrainian president said. “However, that doesn’t make them a single whole. It doesn’t dissolve us into you. We are different, but that is not a reason to be enemies. We want to determine, build our future ourselves, peacefully, calmly and honestly.”

So far, the Biden administration has announced sanctions against a handful of entities including Russian elites and their relatives, sovereign debt, two Russian financial institutions, the Nord Stream 2 AG, its corporate officers and CEO.

But lawmakers have signaled that those moves alone are not enough. 

Updated on Feb. 24 at 12:58 a.m.

Tags Bob Menendez Chris Murphy Joe Biden Mark Warner Marsha Blackburn Marsha Blackburn Mitt Romney Mitt Romney Russia sanctions Ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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