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Republican Senator Introduces Bill to List Russia as State Sponsor of Terror

An employee of a water station examines large piece of MH-17 still sitting on the ground near Hrabove village, eastern Ukraine, on July 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.) introduced a bill today — the fourth anniversary of the shoot-down of MH17 — that would require the State Department to formally review whether Russia should be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The current state sponsors of terrorism are Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea, which had been removed by the Bush administration in an effort to further negotiations but was relisted this November.

“Vladimir Putin continues to try to cause grievous harm to international peace and stability and it is time for the State Department to consider naming Russia what they are – a state sponsor of terror,” Gardner said in a statement. “Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has invaded Ukraine, enabled Bashar al-Assad to carry out chemical weapon attacks on the Syrian people, meddled in the 2016 United States elections, and recently were responsible for a deadly chemical weapons attack on British soil that killed a UK citizen and harmed numerous others.”

The missile that killed 298 people flying above eastern Ukraine in 2014 was from the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile brigade, a unit of the Russian army from Kursk, Dutch investigators confirmed in May. MH17, the Malaysian Airlines jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was taken down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series, the Netherlands’ Public Prosecution Service’s Joint Investigation Team said.

“Russia has not only downed the commercial airliner, it invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine, supports the murderous Assad regime and its — and our enemies in Afghanistan,” Gardner said alongside other Senate Republican leaders after a closed policy luncheon on Capitol Hill.

Gardner, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he hoped the legislation “will be heard soon.” The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The secretary of State reserves the terror sponsor designation for countries that “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Penalties include “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.”