Sens. John McCain and Chris Murphy joined a growing number of their colleagues Wednesday calling on the Obama administration to take action against Ukrainian officials whom they believe are tied to the country's recent violence.
The bipartisan duo in a joint statement pressed for "targeted sanctions" against those who are responsible for or supported violence against peaceful protesters in the European country.
Protests have been ongoing since late November, when President Viktor Yanukovych's government announced it would back away from a trade agreement that would have strengthened the country's ties with the European Union.
A senior State Department official announced Wednesday that the administration is blocking approximately 20 Ukrainian officials, whom it says are tied to the government's recent crackdown, from obtaining a visa to travel to the United States.
The official added that the United States is prepared to work with the European Union on broader sanctions against individuals if the situation between the demonstrators and the government worsens. At least 22 people died in clashes in Kiev on Thursday, a day after Yanukovych announced a truce with opposition leaders aimed at ending the fighting.
McCain and Murphy said they are already working on legislation including "targeted sanctions on government officials and other persons who have committed, ordered, or materially supported acts of violence against peaceful citizens in Ukraine, or who are complicit in the rollback of Ukraine's democracy," adding that they "remain in contact with the administration and look forward to working together on this legislation."
And the two aren't alone.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said in a statement Wednesday, "The time is now to apply sanctions against the Ukrainian government for gross human-rights violations." He stressed that he expects the "administration, with congressional support, to act swiftly on this issue of critical importance."
And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the administration should "use every diplomatic means at its disposal, including sanctions, to bring accountability to those involved in acts of violence throughout Ukraine."
This article appears in the February 21, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.