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Thune: The Free World Must Support Ukraine, Stand Up to Russia

“We have to send the message, unequivocally, that Russia will be an outcast from the free world until it withdraws from Ukraine.”

March 22, 2022

Click here above to watch the video.

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the United States’ need to support Ukraine and place additional sanctions on Russia. Thune stressed the importance of unleashing American energy production in order to lessen our allies’ dependence on Russian energy, and he noted that every dollar spent on Russian energy is a dollar Russia can use to finance its war of aggression on Ukraine.


Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):


“Mr. President, the Russian assault on Ukraine continues unabated.


“Each morning seems to bring a fresh horror.


“In the last few days alone, we’ve seen the Russians bomb an art school where as many as 400 civilians had taken cover.


“And we’ve seen the bombing of a theater where an estimated 1,300 women and children and the elderly were sheltering.


“Not a military target.


“A theater providing shelter to civilians.


“To children.


“A theater that was clearly labeled with the word children.


“That’s right.


“On the pavement outside, in large white letters visible in satellite images, was the word ‘children’ written in Russian.


“So it’s pretty impossible that the Russians didn’t know what – who – they were bombing.


“But they bombed anyway.


“And this is just one example of the depravity of the Russian siege of Mariupol, which has largely destroyed this port city. 


“Residents in Mariupol are without electricity.  Without running water.  At times without food.


“Mr. President, as important as words are, they fail when it comes to describing the horrors that Ukrainians are experiencing.


“The inferno that so many of them now exist in on a daily basis.


“As we go about our lives in peace and security, most of us have no notion of what it means to live where air raid sirens have become commonplace.


“Where bombed-out buildings line the streets you used to walk.


“Where crossing a road or leaving a building at the wrong moment can mean your death.


“The pictures convey some of the horror.


“The post-apocalyptic streetscapes.


“The buildings gray with ash.


“The gaping holes in apartment blocks and businesses.


“Images akin to the bombed-out cities seen in old World War II photographs.


“The total destruction of once-vibrant places.


“Mariupol is perhaps the foremost example of the devastation Russia has wrought.


“The last EU diplomat to leave that city summed up the situation in stark words on Sunday: ‘What I saw, I hope no one will ever see.  Mariupol will become part of a list of cities that were completely destroyed by war.’


“‘What I saw, I hope no one will ever see.  Mariupol will become part of a list of cities that were completely destroyed by war.’


“Mr. President, we don’t have to look far for the source of these horrors.


“They can be attributed to one man.

“To Vladimir Putin.


“To achieve his vision of a Russian empire, he has laid waste to the country of Ukraine.


“Thousands of lives sacrificed – on both sides – because he wants Ukraine.  Because he thinks Ukraine should be part of Russia.


“It doesn’t matter that the people of Ukraine have made it unshakably clear that they are their own people and a sovereign nation, willing to lay down their lives for their freedom.


“Putin wants Ukraine, and he is apparently willing to destroy Ukraine to get it. 


“All this evil, all this destruction, so many human lives wasted, all because of one man’s fixation on a Russian empire.


“More than 3.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine, including at least 1.5 million children, and around 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced.


“That amounts to roughly one quarter of Ukraine’s population forced from their homes.


“And the numbers continue to grow. 


“Mr. President, last week, President Zelenskyy addressed Congress.


“In powerful words, he outlined the situation in Ukraine and asked for additional help in Ukrainians’ battle for their country.


“I am proud that the United States has provided Ukraine with substantial military assistance and has put in place strong sanctions against Russia, including sanctioning the lifeblood of the Russian economy, the Russian energy sector.


“But, Mr. President, we have to do more.


“However much current sanctions have hit the Russian economy, Putin is still prosecuting his war of aggression in Ukraine.


“And so we have to do more.


“We have to send the message, unequivocally, that Russia will be an outcast from the free world until it withdraws from Ukraine.


“There are additional sanctions the U.S. can put in place.


“And we need to immediately get to work unleashing American energy production so that we can provide energy to our allies in Europe and lessen their dependence on energy from Russia.


“Every dollar that goes to purchase Russian energy is a dollar that Russia can use to finance its war of aggression.


“The United States has correctly banned Russian oil and gas imports – now we need to help our allies in Europe permanently divest themselves of their reliance on Russian energy.


“Congress also needs to act immediately on legislation to suspend Russia’s favorable trading status.


“Membership at the World Trade Organization should be limited to countries that don’t launch unprovoked war on their neighbors.


“We also need to continue our shipments of arms to Ukraine.


“And the president needs to find a way to further enhance Ukrainian air defenses – whether that involves sending the S-300 air defense systems that President Zelenskyy asked for, or armed drones, or facilitating the transfer of MiG aircraft from NATO countries to the Ukrainian Air Force.  Or all of the above.


“Russia is currently unleashing devastation from the skies on Ukrainian cities – we need to find a way of helping the Ukrainians to reduce or eliminate that threat.


“Finally, we need to make sure that while we’re sanctioning Russia on the one hand, we’re not enriching it on the other with things like an Iran deal that could see Russia benefit to the tune of $10 billion.


“Mr. President, the people of Ukraine are not waiting for anyone to come and save them.


“They are fighting with everything they have to save their country.


“But they are asking for our help.


“They need arms and resources and humanitarian assistance to sustain their fight against Russian forces that are increasingly showing less and less restraint.


“And they are relying on us – on our shared belief in freedom and self-determination.  On our shared commitment to human liberty.


“The Ukrainian people know what they want to be – a free people in a free country.


“And they have the will to stay in this fight.


“They just need our help.


“Mr. President, let’s not let them down.”