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Dakotas, Minnesota delegates condemn Ukraine invasion and call for sanctions against Russia

Said North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven: “We must ensure Putin pays a heavy price not only as a response to his aggression in Ukraine but also as a deterrent against future aggression in eastern Europe."

Cramer and Klobuchar in Ukraine .jpg
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., right, at microphone, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., left, speak during a January trip to Ukraine. Klobuchar, Cramer and others met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reaffirmed the United States' commitment to Ukraine as tensions mounted with Russia.
Courtesy / Office of Kevin Cramer
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GRAND FORKS — In the hours after Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered his military forces to invade Ukraine, federal lawmakers from North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota condemned the attack and called for heavy sanctions against Russia.

According to various reports, at least 40 Ukrainian soldiers died in the early hours of the attack, which began Wednesday and continued Thursday. Wednesday evening, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement, saying Putin has started “a premeditated war that will bring catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was the first of North Dakota’s delegates to issue a statement. Cramer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and participant in the Senate Ukraine Caucus, said “it’s crystal clear that Vladimir Putin harbors fantasies of reuniting the Soviet Union and now he’s translated this fantasy into action.”

Cramer said Russia had no right to cross Ukraine’s border.

More on Ukraine
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said Ukrainian forces would respond to the shelling of Marhanets. Ukraine's military said Russia also bombarded several other areas in the Zaporizhzhia region including the coal-mining town of Vuhledar.

“The United States fiercely condemns this violent action and stands strongly in support of Ukraine,” Cramer said. “We needed sanctions months ago to ward off exactly this type of action. Now that Putin has taken these steps we must implement strong, primary and secondary sanctions immediately.”

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Kelly Armstrong, a Republican and North Dakota’s lone delegate in the House of Representatives, also said it’s time to support Ukraine.

“Say a prayer for the Ukrainian people,” Armstrong said. “They want peace. Putin has chosen war. America and our allies must stand strong in support of Ukraine. They deserve freedom.”

Russia’s first movement into Ukraine came shortly after Putin, in a televised speech, said he had authorized military action and that any countries that try to intervene will face a severe response. The invasion came after weeks of speculation and heightened anxiety in recent days. The crisis is drawing comparisons to Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939, an event that sparked World War II.

In the hours since Wednesday’s initial attack, congressional delegates across the nation have been calling for harsher sanctions against Russia.

"America and our allies must answer the call to protect freedom by subjecting Putin and Russia to the harshest economic penalties, by expelling them from global institutions, and by committing ourselves to the expansion and modernization of our national defense," said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

Romney said “history shows that a tyrant’s appetite for conquest is never satiated.”

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the Russian attack should serve as a warning to other European nations.

“The United States must work closely with our allies to oppose Putin’s efforts to subvert European peace and security,” Hoeven said in a statement released shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday. “We must ensure Putin pays a heavy price not only as a response to his aggression in Ukraine but also as a deterrent against future aggression in eastern Europe. We need to support the people of Ukraine, reinforce our allies, and immediately implement severe sanctions on Russia. We pray for the people of Ukraine in this tragic moment.”

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Earlier in the week, Hoeven used Twitter to say the Ukraine crisis “is the latest in a long series of steps Putin has taken to subvert Europe’s peace and security. It is clear that Putin will continue to act aggressively unless we impose heavy costs for his actions.”

In January, a delegation of senators that included Cramer, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and five others traveled to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the meeting, according to a release from Cramer’s office, members of the caucus declared strong solidarity with Ukraine as the tension between Ukraine and Russia mounted.

“Our bipartisan delegation demonstrates to Vladimir Putin the United States’ resolve and sends the message we stand with Ukraine,” Cramer said at the time.

Early Wednesday morning, Klobuchar said – via Twitter – that “the warnings from our (intelligence) sources were right” and noted that Putin’s invasion is against a “free democracy.” She called for sanctions and consequences worldwide.

“It is the time for our country and our world to unite,” she said in the Twitter post. “We stand with the brave people of Ukraine.”

Cramer said the implications of Wednesday’s invasion – and the U.S. response – go beyond relations between the U.S., Russia and Ukraine.

“What we choose to do will also send a message to China on Taiwan,” he said.

In South Dakota, senior Sen. John Thune, a Republican, said Putin only will respond to strength.

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"So the United States must send a strong and unified message that this aggression will not be tolerated," Thune said. "In addition to making it clear that there are more sanctions on the table ... we must provide the necessary support to our NATO allies and assist Ukraine with what it needs to fight this battle.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said in a Twitter post that Putin has chosen war.

"America and our European allies must stand united in bringing the full force of economic sanctions against Putin and his oligarchs," Johnson said. "Pray for the Ukrainian people."

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday offered support and prayers for the Ukrainian people and the "brazen acts of aggression" by Russia.

"The United States and its allies must stand together in support of Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked attacks. This international crisis underscores the importance of U.S. energy security and increasing American production so we can sell energy to our friends and allies versus buying it from our enemies," Burgum said in a statement to the media. "Our thoughts also are with those of Ukrainian heritage here in North Dakota who are concerned for the safety of their relatives as their homeland is under siege, as well as those North Dakota farmers and businesses with interests in Ukraine.”

U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said Russia's military action is "unjust and unacceptable" and, in a statement sent late Thursday morning, referenced policies implemented by the Biden administration.

"We are dealing with a culmination of this administration’s failed economic policy, energy policy, and foreign policy. It is past time for the United States to reassert its leadership. America and the rest of the free world must stand together in face of this aggression," said Fischbach. "I pray for and stand in solidarity with our friends and democratic allies, the people of Ukraine."

Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., said she condemns, "in the strongest possible terms," Russia's action. She believes the invasion will lead to great human loss and suffering.

"In the hours and days to come, the United States, in coordination with its allies around the globe, must impose severe economic consequences on Russia, support NATO and rally international support for the legitimate, democratically elected government of Ukraine,” Craig said.

And Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., called the invasion "unacceptable." On Twitter, he said the U.S. "must stand strong with the Ukrainian people and our allies against this aggression" and that Putin's actions "must have severe consequences."

Related Topics: UKRAINE
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.


As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.



Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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