GOP senator says Ukraine has ‘demonstrated’ it won’t allow Russian occupation

A Ukrainian soldier holds radios during heavy fighting on the front line in Severodonetsk, the Luhansk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday that Ukraine is prepared to expel all of Russia’s troops from the country but warned of a drawn-out conflict that will echo for generations. 

“I think the Ukrainians have demonstrated they are not going to allow this country to be occupied by the Russians, I truly believe that’s not going to happen,” Risch said in a call with reporters following a visit to Kyiv and surrounding suburbs. 

“There isn’t going to be a reconciliation council or something when this is over,” the senator added. “The wounds are way too deep. … It’s gonna go on for a long, long time.”

Risch affirmed the GOP backing of providing Ukraine with the military means to push back against the Russian assault despite opposition from some within his own party in the Senate. At least 11 Republican senators voted against a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in May. 

“It is a real minority of people that are criticizing,” he said of the GOP detractors. 

“I would say to those that criticize, do you really want to do this? Ronald Reagan would be deeply disappointed. He’d hang his head in shame if he knew that we walked away from Ukrainians when we could help them and we have the ability to to help them,” Risch said. 

The senator met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, his trip into the city delayed after Russia launched missile strikes on the capital, with the impact by three rockets killing at least one person and wounding others.

“You can’t understand what the Russians are thinking and why they would drop three missiles where they did. I don’t know if they’re trying to terrorize,” Risch said.

The Idaho Republican said he’d like to see more high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) delivered to the Ukrainians beyond what the U.S. has already provided.

Risch didn’t comment on delivery of NASAMS — Norwegian made, long-range surface-to-air missile defense systems — but said those two systems are going to make a “significant difference,” in particular as Russia gains more control over territories in the east despite fierce push back from Ukrainian forces. 

“HIMARS, NASAMS, great, great weapons for what they need. None of that’s arrived yet,” Risch said. “I think when it does, it’s going to make a significant difference. The Ukrainians are incredibly good at using the materials that we give them. They’re skilled, they train easily, they train up quickly, and I’m just impressed with what they’re doing on the front.”

The senator spoke with reporters shortly after reports emerged that Russia allegedly struck a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk on Monday. The Ukrainian defense ministry said that at least 10 civilians had been found dead, and 40 injured.

Reuters reported that Russian shelling against the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Monday killed five people and wounded 22 others, including five children.

Risch said he supports efforts in Congress to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced in May a resolution calling for the designation — and that he would support bill text that would recognize Russia’s war against Ukraine as genocide. 

“There is no question about it. If you could walk the streets of Irpin like I did, and the neighborhoods in Hostomel, and listen to the stories that those people told about what the Russian soldiers did — this is a genocide, and it needs to be recognized as such,” the senator said.

President Biden has called Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine acts of “genocide,” but the U.S. and other nations have yet to issue a formal declaration, which could trigger international intervention in a war where the administration has sought to keep out Americans forces and avoid direct conflict with Moscow. 

Tags James Risch Jim Risch Ronald Reagan Russia Russo-Ukrainian War Ukraine Ukraine conflict Ukraine invasion Ukraine war Volodymyr Zelensky
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