The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unveiled tonight a framework for Congress to take legislative action on the crisis in Ukraine.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who’s been at loggerheads with the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear negotiations, said Wednesday that he expected the White House “with congressional support to act swiftly on this issue of critical importance.”
Today, the chairman outlined what steps should be taken, including freezing assets of Ukrainian officials “determined to have sanctioned or carried out state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protesters” and advocating for visa bans for “any Ukrainian officials determined to have sanctioned or carried out state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protestors.”
Menendez wants to increase aid “immediately for democracy, civil society actors, and independent journalists” and cut “assistance temporarily to any organizations possibly involved in repression and violence until necessary reviews is completed.”
“The violence and oppression in Ukraine is spiraling out of control as peaceful demonstrators in Kyiv’s Maidan Square are brutalized and killed by government forces,” Menendez said. “We in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have monitored these developments closely, from holding a hearing last month to introducing a bipartisan resolution expressing deep concern for the undemocratic rule and abuse of individual rights in Ukraine.”
“Only President Yanukovych can put an end to the mayhem that he has unleashed in the Ukrainian capital, but we will not stand idly by while the Ukrainian people are targeted and killed on their own streets. I regret that it has come to this, but I have consulted with my colleagues on the committee and in the days ahead we will take legislative action.”
The White House said yesterday that they were considering some sort of sanctions on Ukraine, while some officials at the European Union were moving forward with such punitive measures.
“I’m not in a position to confirm any additional steps that the United States has decided to take at this point,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at today’s daily briefing. “The President and other senior members of this administration alluded yesterday to the fact that there were a range of tools that could be used by the administration to hold accountable those who have either ordered or are responsible for the violence that’s being perpetrated by the Ukrainian government against peaceful protesters.”
“So there are a range of options that are available, and it is fair to say that a range of options is being actively considered at the White House. But I don’t have any specific things, any specific decisions about those options to relay to you now,” Earnest added. “As soon as some decisions have been made, if they are made, we’ll let you know.”
Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych this afternoon and asked him to “immediately pull back all security forces – police, snipers, military and paramilitary units, and irregular forces,” the White House said in a readout of the call. “The Vice President made clear that the United States is prepared to sanction those officials responsible for the violence. The Vice President urged President Yanukovych to take immediate and tangible steps to work with the opposition on a path forward that addresses the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people. The Vice President underscored that the United States supports an independent, democratic Ukraine that pursues the future its people choose.”