US senators introduce bill to designate Russian state sponsor of terrorism

US Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speak during an interview with Reuters, as Russia’s offensive on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on July 7, 2022. REUTERS/Valentin Ogirenko/File Photo

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic and Republican senators introduced legislation on Wednesday that would designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation brought up by Ukraine but opposed by President Joe Biden’s administration.

“The need for this measure is more urgent now than ever,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of the bill’s sponsors, said at a news conference, citing civilian deaths and “brutal and brutal repression” in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, another sponsor of the bill, said the designation would send a strong signal of support for Ukraine to Kyiv and also to US allies, with tough sanctions on Russia such as allowing it to be sued in US courts for its actions in Ukraine and toughening sanctions.

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It was not immediately clear when or whether the measure would be put to a vote. But the two senators have been defending the designation for months, visiting Kyiv in July to promote it. Read more

Other lawmakers have joined them in expressing their support for the idea. House Democrat Nancy Pelosi said in July the designation was “long overdue.”

Biden said he does not plan such a designation of Russia. Administration officials say they do not feel the designation is the most effective way to hold Russia accountable and that it could impede the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

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State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news briefing that the administration was discussing with lawmakers measures “similar to” those that would be imposed on the Russian economy under this designation. Read more

“We have to take into account the intended and unintended consequences” with this appointment, he said. “We are dealing with Congress about tools that will continue to have similar repercussions on the Russian economy, for the Russian government, that will not have those unintended consequences.”

Moscow told Washington that diplomatic relations would be severely damaged and could even be severed if Russia was added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which currently includes Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria.

The Blumenthal and Graham bill includes a provision that would allow a US president to waive the designation on national security grounds after certifying to Congress that Russia no longer supports acts of international terrorism.

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(Patricia Gingerly reports) Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and Simon Lewis. Editing by Bill Bercrot

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