McConnell urges Biden to name Russia a state sponsor of terrorism
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday urged President Biden to name Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, which would lift sovereign immunity protections shielding the country from being sued for civil damages.
“I think it’s a good idea, and I would support that,” he told reporters during a press call from Stockholm. “The president could do it on his own, and I would urge him to do it.”
McConnell made his recommendation to designate Russia a sponsor of terrorism after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday. Three other Republican senators, Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Susan Collins (Maine), also attended the meeting.
McConnell said he assured Zelensky that “support for Ukraine in this war against the Russians is bipartisan” and that the “overwhelming majority” of national security-minded Republicans support the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, despite recent criticism of a $40 billion Ukrainian aid package by prominent Republicans such as former President Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.).
“This naked aggression must not stand,” McConnell said. “I wanted to assure them that within the Congress there was very, very broad support for continuing the fight.”
The GOP leader made his comments after Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a resolution last week calling for the designation of the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The bipartisan measure would call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to put Russia on the list, where it would join Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria.
Recently departed White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the U.S. had already imposed crippling “economic sanctions” and “sanctions on individuals,” rendering Russia “a global pariah” but added that “we’ll see what happens in Congress.”
The United Nations human rights office estimated at the beginning of May that more than 3,000 Ukrainian civilians had died since the start of the invasion, but some experts think the death toll is much higher from indiscriminate Russian shelling and bombing.
Some of the most graphic images of war crimes came from Bucha, a town just outside Kyiv, where the bodies of civilians were found shot execution-style with their hands tied behind their backs.
McConnell on Sunday reiterated his view that U.S. military assistance of Ukraine should continue for as long as Ukrainians want to fight off the Russian invasion.
“The question always is, how does it end? And my view remains that that’s a decision for the Ukrainians to make. My definition of victory is whatever Zelensky and the Ukrainians conclude is a satisfactory end,” he said.
McConnell said Zelensky’s goal is “territorial integrity” and “that would mean the Russians need to go back to Russia.
The GOP leader also predicted the Senate would advance a motion to proceed to the $40 billion Ukrainian aid package on Monday and approve the bill on Wednesday.
“I think it’s important for the United States to help, important for the free world to help, important for the Ukrainians to win, and hopefully not many members of my party will choose to politicize this issue,” he said when asked about the 57 House Republicans who voted against the aid package last week.
It passed the lower chamber overwhelmingly by a vote of 368-57.
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