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Biden, bipartisan U.S. lawmakers condemn Russia for escalation in Ukraine

President Biden labeled Russian President Vladimir Putin "the aggressor" after the Russian attack against Ukraine on Feb. 24. (Video: The Washington Post)

Russia “alone is responsible for the death and destruction” its military action in Ukraine may bring, according to a statement President Biden released late Wednesday after Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced plans to launch a “special military operation” in the country.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden’s statement read. “ … The world will hold Russia accountable.”

Biden also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a phone call, during which the U.S. leader called Putin’s military activities “unprovoked and unjustified.” Responding to Zelensky’s request that the world’s leaders speak out against Russia’s “flagrant aggression,” Biden pledged that the United States and its allies will coordinate their responses in a “united and decisive” fashion.

Biden will meet with leaders from the Group of Seven nations on Thursday morning and address the American people on further sanctions to deter Russian aggression.

As news of Russia’s attack on Ukraine rippled across the Atlantic, officials in both U.S. political parties echoed Biden’s words, vowing to stand with Ukraine. Some offered their prayers, others urged greater action against Russia and still others interjected partisan politics.

“Putin’s decision to invade is an evil, panicked move of weakness and will be his defining mistake,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) wrote on Twitter. “The Ukrainian people will fight for as long as it takes to secure their nation from this foreign tyrant, and the United States will stand with them in this fight.”

Warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin had plans to use “this crisis to try to divide Americans from each other and to separate America from our allies,” Murphy urged both parties to come together against a common threat to democracy worldwide.

“This is not a moment for politics to trump security,” he wrote.

What you need to know about the Russia-Ukraine crisis

In an interview with Fox News, former president Donald Trump said Putin had undertaken the military maneuver “because of a rigged election” in the United States. In the days leading up to Russia’s attack — amid escalating tensions — Trump had praised Putin, saying it was a “smart move” by the Russian president to send “the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen” to the Ukraine border.

His comments — along with those made by a faction of conservative Republicans, Trump supporters and conservative media figures — caused a rift.

“Kyiv and Kharkiv are being bombed,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. “The largest invasion on our planet since WW2. Republicans are rooting for the Russians. God be with Ukraine and democracy.”

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, calling Putin “a tyrant” in a statement, urged the United States and its allies to “answer the call to protect freedom” by excluding Russia from global institutions and expanding U.S. national defense.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Russia’s actions amounted to “an invasion of a sovereign nation” — one that “cannot go uncontested.”

“I hope you’ll join me tonight in praying for the people of Ukraine and for a unified allied response,” he tweeted.

Echoing some of his counterparts’ calls for a strong stance against Russia, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the assault on Ukraine had brought decades of general peace in Europe to an end.

“While there is still an opportunity for Russia to reverse course, we can no longer hold out hope that this standoff will be resolved peacefully,” Warner said in a statement. “Therefore, we must all, on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Atlantic, work together to demonstrate to Putin that this aggression will not be allowed to go unpunished.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on state television on Feb. 24 that Russia was beginning a military operation in eastern Ukraine. (Video: Reuters)

In an early-hours speech Thursday morning, Putin said his country strives to achieve the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine and end eight years of war in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists.

Shortly afterward, explosions could be heard in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast.

Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia claimed to have seized control of Soledar, a heavily contested salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged recently, but a Ukrainian military official maintained that the battle was not yet over. The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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