A bipartisan group of 27 senators—15 Democrats and 12 Republicans—called on President-elect Donald Trump Thursday to apply pressure to Russia in light of its illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
“Almost three years after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine, daily ceasefire violations along the line of contact make a mockery of the Minsk Agreement and demonstrate that this conflict in the heart of Europe is far from over,” their statement read, referencing a 2014 ceasefire agreement that only briefly stopped fighting in the area.
Trump has riled establishment Republicans with his attitude that the United States should be “friends” with Russia, especially in order to fight terrorism, while brushing aside Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior and human rights abuses.
Ahead of the Republican National Committee meeting in Cleveland, the Washington Post reported that Trump operatives had lobbied the RNC platform committee to remove language supportive of selling arms to Ukraine. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos in August, Trump said that Putin was “not going into Ukraine, okay?” if he was elected—though Putin already had, years earlier.
The senators’ statement blames Russia for waging a “disinformation war” against Ukraine and the West, failing to withdraw heavy weapons from the area and applying undue political and economic pressure to the Ukrainian government.
“Quite simply, Russia has launched a military land-grab in Ukraine that is unprecedented in modern European history. These actions in Crimea and other areas of eastern Ukraine dangerously upend well-established diplomatic, legal, and security norms that the United States and its NATO allies painstakingly built over decades,” it continues.
The senators urged Trump to maintain sanctions against Russia “until key provisions of the Minsk Agreement are met,” and, notably, urges providing “defensive lethal assistance” to Ukraine.