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N.D.'s Sen. Hoeven says U.S. and allies need to punish Russia

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Monday the U.S. and its allies should use broader diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia to deter it from further aggression in Ukraine.

Hoeven was part of a Senate delegation led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to Ukraine last week. There, he met officials with the country’s acting government and a representative of the North Dakota Trade Office, as well as business leaders with ties to North Dakota.

Ukraine’s capital Kiev had been the site of deadly demonstrations and clashes with police that ultimately led to the ouster of its president, Viktor Yanukovych, who favored closer ties with Russia instead of the European Union. Russian troops have since moved into Crimea on the country’s southern coast, where voters Sunday overwhelmingly approved a referendum to make the peninsula part of Russia.

President Barack Obama has said the U.S. would not recognize the election, and Hoeven said it was “not a bona fide election.”

“There is incredible concern and anxiety in Ukraine that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will try to take over more of Ukraine,” Hoeven said in a phone interview Monday. “There are people in Crimea sympathetic to wanting to be under Russian governance... but clearly this is an invasion.”

On Monday, Putin recognized Crimea as an independent state.


Obama on Monday announced sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian government officials that are alleged to have been involved in the Ukraine crisis over the past few weeks.

“The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy,” Obama said in a statement Monday.

The European Union also announced travel restrictions against Russian and Crimean officials Monday.

Hoeven said the U.S. needs to work with its allies to impose broader sanctions against Russia. Part of his discussions in Ukraine was to hear how sanctions might affect the country and businesses.   

“We need to punish Russia, but we want to make sure we help Ukraine, we help the European Union and we don’t negatively affect our U.S. companies,” said Hoeven, who called Monday’s sanctions “a step in the right direction.” He advocated for allowing natural gas exports to North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, which he said is heavily dependent on Russia for energy.

Hoeven also visited the site of the demonstrations that left dozens killed. Demonstrations that began over frustration of the Ukrainian government’s acceptance of stronger financial ties with Russia over the European Union boiled over in February, when as many as 100 were killed.

“It was an incredibly sobering and moving experience,” Hoeven said of his visit to the protest site.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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