Lawmakers to Hagel: Stop buying Russian-made helicopters

A bipartisan group of five lawmakers are urging Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE to stop buying Mi-17 helicopters from Russian arms company Rosoboronexport, in light of Russia’s moves to annex the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. 

"Given Russia's recent actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including its support of the illegal referendum for Crimean separation, we strongly urge you to terminate these contracts," said the letter. 

The U.S. purchases the Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan air force, which officials argue are sturdy and simple workhorses that are suitable for Afghanistan’s thin air and challenging terrain. 

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The lawmakers, led by Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Kay Granger (R-Tex.), said canceling the contracts was in Hagel's authority, since it goes against U.S. interests and met criteria under an executive order the president signed on Monday.

“Under an Executive Order signed by President Obama Monday, those that operate in the Russian arms sector may be subject to sanction,” they wrote. 

"As noted by President Obama in his Executive Order, Russia's recent actions 'undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,’” they said. 

The letter was also signed by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Rep. James Moran (D-Va.), and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).