A bipartisan group of senators met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine and offered their support as the threat of an attack from Russia looms.
Russia gathered thousands of troops on the nation’s border and has pressed Western forces for assurances that Ukraine will not be admitted to the NATO alliance.
Led by President Vladimir Putin, the country has denied it intends to invade the nation.
“The United States has been Ukraine’s most powerful backer in its standoff with Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of the war in eastern Ukraine,” notes Reuters.
The American delegation included Democrats Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire as well as Republicans Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
“I think Vladimir Putin has made the biggest mistake of his career in underestimating how courageously the people of Ukraine will fight him if he invades,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said at a press briefing in Kyiv after meeting with the Ukrainian president. Blumenthal is a member of the Armed Services Committee.
He added, “We will impose crippling economic sanctions, but more important we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms they need to defend their lives and livelihoods.”
Senator Cramer, who is also a member of the Armed Service Committee, noted that additional action from the Biden administration could be in development. He said that President Joe Biden was “right to not wait for congressional authorization” while he beings to “build a set of multilateral sanctions.”
“My belief is that we will be able to come together in Congress around the sanctions authority to make sure that President Biden has everything he needs and is coordinated with our allies to bring the crushing set of sanctions before any invasion plans,” Cramer said.
Another member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Wicker said, “There is no question the aggression has already begun.”
He suggested that “actual individuals who are violating international law” could be sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act.
The 2009 Act gives the President the authority “to impose economic sanctions and deny entry into the United States to any foreign person identified as engaging in human rights abuse or corruption,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
It is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax lawyer and auditor who uncovered widespread tax fraud and corruption in his country. He was arrested in November of 2008 for alleged tax evasion. He died a year later while still in federal custody after being denied medical care, family visits, and legal due process.
In a warning to the Russian president, Senator Amy Klobuchar said “So our message is: there will be consequences if he chooses to violate the sanctity of this democracy.”