Senators call for sanctions against Ukraine government

February 19, 2014

Protesters clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday Jan. 23, 2014. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AP)

U.S. senators, in growing numbers, are calling for sanctions against the Ukraine government for its crackdown against anti-government protesters in Kiev.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) led the call Wednesday, denouncing the leadership of President Viktor Yanukovych and saying Congress should pass sanctions now.

"The responsibility for this tragedy rests with President Yanukovych, who has failed at every turn to address the legitimate democratic aspirations of his people," Menendez said in a statement. "The actions of President Yanukovych and his government are deplorable and the time is now to apply sanctions against the Ukrainian government for gross human rights violations. I expect the administration, with congressional support, to act swiftly on this issue of critical importance."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) agreed that sanctions should be a part of the discussion.

“I urge the Obama Administration to use every diplomatic means at its disposal, including sanctions, to bring accountability to those involved in acts of violence throughout Ukraine," Rubio said.

The bipartisan duo of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), meanwhile, called for sanctions against anybody who supports the use of violence against the protesters.

"We have consistently made it clear, including during our joint visit to Kiev in December 2013, that there must be consequences for the escalation of violence in Ukraine. Unfortunately, that time has now come," McCain and Murphy said in a joint statement.

The two are already crafting legislation.

“We have begun working together on legislation that would impose targeted sanctions on government officials and other persons who have committed, ordered or materially supported acts of violence against peaceful citizens in Ukraine, or who are complicit in the rollback of Ukraine’s democracy," McCain and Murphy said. "These sanctions should not, and will not, target the people or the country of Ukraine as a whole. Instead, they will be narrowly focused on those individuals who must be held accountable for violating human rights and undermining democracy."

In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) also called for action.

"The President should act now, without delay, before more are killed in the streets of Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine," Royce said.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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