US Senators McCain, Graham and Klobuchar Visit Front Lines In Ukraine; Trump Praises Putin

December 31, 2016
U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) speak to RFE/RL in Ukraine

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Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


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Three US Senators and members of the members of the Senate Armed Services committee — John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) — visited the front lines in Ukraine today in order to pay tribute to the Ukrainian soldiers who are standing up to Russian aggression, a move which has increased symbolic value in light of president-elect Donald Trump’s repeated praise for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In a statement, McCain and Graham slammed Russia’s interference in US elections as well as their invasion of Ukrainian territory, and the senators showed support for new sanctions that have been levied against Russia’s military intelligence apparatus, the GRU.

USA Today reports:

“The retaliatory measures announced by the Obama Administration today are long overdue,” the two Republican senators said. “But ultimately, they are a small price for Russia to pay for its brazen attack on American democracy. We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia.”

The tough stance has contrasted sharply with the expressed views of President-elect Donald Trump. The Republican standard-bearer responded to the initial hacking report by saying he would discuss the issue with intelligence leaders next week, but otherwise felt that “(i)t’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.”

After Putin declined to expel any U.S. diplomats, in the usual tit-for-tat diplomatic response, Trump tweeted praise for the Russian leader’s decision, saying: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!”

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McCain visits frontline Ukraine troops in anti-Putin gesture

Sen. John McCain, who has emerged as the chief opponent within the Republican party to Donald Trump's warming relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, underscored his tough stance Saturday by spending New Year's Eve at a forward combat outpost with Ukrainian troops.

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Jan 01, 2017 08:48 (GMT)

The senators also attended a Hanukkah service in Kiev yesterday.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL, McCain said that the United States would refuse to strike a “Faustian bargain” with Russia that would reward Russia’s illegal aggression. Graham, on the other hand, vowed to push the Senate to pass more sanctions against Russia that go beyond what the Obama administration has already done. 

RFE/RL reports:

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said Congress would pursue in 2017 more sanctions against Russia, targeting the energy and banking sectors, as well as “Putin and his inner circle.”

“We’re going to do two things: We’re going after Putin harder with tougher sanctions and we’re going to be more helpful to our friends, like here in Ukraine,” Graham said.

McCain, Graham, and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) said there is strong support in Congress to provide Ukraine with “lethal defensive weapons” to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia-backed separatists in the east.

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U.S. Senators Vow No 'Faustian Bargain' With Russia, Pledge To Target Putin 'Harder'

KYIV — Senator John McCain says that the United States will not strike a "Faustian bargain" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid speculation that President-elect Donald Trump could scrap sanctions in a bid to improve ties. Speaking in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service in Kyiv on December 30 along with two other U.S.

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Jan 01, 2017 08:54 (GMT)

Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko also visited Mariupol today, where he memorialized the casualties of the war in the Donbass. reports:  

“This year alone, 211 servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine gave their lives for peace and freedom of our country, protecting it from the aggressor. We bow to the memory of the soldiers and officers who died for Ukraine,” said the president.  

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"Heroes never die": Poroshenko speaks of Donbas death toll in 2016

"This year alone, 211 servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine gave their lives for peace and freedom of our country, protecting it from the aggressor. We bow to the memory of the soldiers and officers who died for Ukraine," said the president. As UNIAN reported earlier, President Poroshenko along with the three U.S.

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Jan 01, 2017 09:15 (GMT)

James Miller