US lawmakers 'proud' to be blacklisted in Russia row

AFP , Thursday 20 Mar 2014

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner (photo: AP)

US lawmakers scoffed at sanctions imposed on them by Russia Thursday, saying it was a point of pride to be on President Vladimir Putin's blacklist.

Minutes after President Barack Obama announced expanded sanctions against Russian officials over the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin struck back with travel bans against US lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin's aggression," Boehner wrote on Twitter.

The reaction was swift and bipartisan on Capitol Hill, where legislators from both parties have called for a tougher line on Moscow, including economic sanctions to punish its takeover of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a bill greenlighting financial aid to Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.

"President Putin's military invasion and annexation of Crimea is brutal, totally unacceptable, and sadly returns us to a period of Cold War aggression and hostility," the committee's chairman, Democrat Robert Menendez, said in a statement.

"It doesn't have to be this way, but if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard earned democracy, and sovereignty means I'm sanctioned by Putin, so be it," he said.

And Senator John McCain, a fierce Kremlin critic who says Putin has long aimed to rebuild the Russian empire, also chimed in.

"I'm proud to be sanctioned by Putin -- I'll never cease my efforts & dedication to freedom & independence of #Ukraine, which includes #Crimea," tweeted McCain, who visited Ukraine last weekend with other senators.

Senators Mary Landrieu and Daniel Coats are also on Moscow's list, as are a handful of White House aides.

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