US lawmakers want Russia labeled sponsor of terrorism

A nonbinding resolution calling upon US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Russia a sponsor of terrorism was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday. 

According to the bill, introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Moscow deserves this label for its actions in Russia’s Chechnya, as well as Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, resulting “in the deaths of countless innocent men, women and children.”

The bill blamed Russian forces for committing war crimes during the ongoing military operation in Ukraine and attempting to cover them up, echoing talking points made by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky over the past few months. Moscow has been consistently denying these claims, accusing the US-backed Kiev forces and mercenaries of targeting civilians.

Graham and Blumenthal visited Kiev earlier in July to meet with Zelensky and promote their push to designate Russia as a sponsor of terrorism. The Ukrainian leader “thanked the senators for this important activity,” his office said.

Sergey Tsekov, a member of the foreign affairs committee at the Russian Federation Council, reacted to the move of the US Senators by insisting that Russia has always been a “protector country” that fights terrorism.

The American “efforts to turn Russia into a pariah-state have failed and because of this blunder they came up with a new idea that Russia is a sponsor of terrorism,” Tsekov said.

A similar bill has been introduced in the US House of Representatives, where it’s strongly supported by speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Politico reported last week that Pelosi had warned Blinken that if he doesn’t designate Russia a sponsor of terrorism, the Congress will do it itself through passing the relevant legislation.

Those who are behind putting Russia on the same list as Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria argue that it would enable them to increase sanction pressure on the country by expanding restrictions beyond targeting specific sectors of its economy.

In April, State Department spokesperson Ned Price argued that “the sanctions [against Russia] we have in place and have taken are the same steps that would be entailed by the designation of a state sponsor of terrorism.”

When speaking on the same issue on Tuesday, Price pointed out that the State Department was responsible for taking “the criteria that Congress has written into law” regarding the designation of Russia a sponsor of terrorism and “to compare that to the facts on the ground.” This is what the agency has been doing recently, he added.

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