Ukraine sent letter to senators seeking specific Russia sanctions, military assistance

The head of Ukraine’s parliament sent a letter to several U.S. senators outlining specific demands for sanctioning Russia over its military posture near Ukraine’s border.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, thanked the senators for supporting Ukraine, and “stressed the importance of already adopted laws to support Ukraine in combating Russian aggression,” according to a statement from the parliament.

Lawmakers are scrambling to put together a bipartisan sanctions package to deter Russia from invading Ukraine — which the Biden administration has warned could happen any day. While deterring Russia from invading Ukraine is a bipartisan point on Capitol Hill, how best to deter an invasion has been a sticking point among senators. 

Senators are using legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as a starting point.

That legislation largely imposes sanctions if the Biden administration determines that Russia invaded or intentionally escalated hostilities against Ukraine.

According to Axios, which first obtained the letter, the request was sent to Menendez and Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations panel. The letter was also sent to Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). 

The senators on Monday took part in a meeting over Zoom to try to figure out the details for legislation on sanctioning Russia.

Stefanchuk asked for “expedited and higher-impact security assistance, including air defenses, anti-ship and anti-armor capabilities, and flexible loans and financing mechanisms,” according to Axios, citing the letter.

The chairman also demanded immediate, mandatory sanctions against the operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which Ukraine has said threatened its security. He also called for mandatory pre-trigger and post-trigger sanctions against all of Russia’s “most significant financial institutions.”  

Further, Stefanchuk asked for a “clear trigger for the instant and unqualified imposition of any sanctions that are not imposed immediately upon enactment of the legislation.”