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Idaho leaders react to invasion of Ukraine

Sen. Jim Risch urges passage of a bill that includes economic sanctions on major Russian banks and $500 million in military financing for Ukraine.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's governor and U.S. Senate delegation are condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and expressing support for the Ukrainian people

In a Twitter post on Thursday, Gov. Brad Little said that he is praying for peace.

"Putin's unprovoked attack is an assault on democracy and the values of a free society," Little said. "We must hold Russia accountable for their senseless aggression toward the Ukrainian people."

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) is currently the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In a written statement, he called the invasion a "flagrant and premeditated act of war."

"Despite committed efforts to find a diplomatic solution, Putin has violated the border of a sovereign country. No one should be surprised. U.S. agencies have made public the facts to show the world what was coming," Risch said, adding that Putin "has always used force to take what he wants, from the occupation of Abkahzia and South Ossetia in Georgia, to the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, and the military occupation of Belarus. These are not the actions of a proud nation and people, but the actions of a desperate man whose only desire is to sow chaos in order to make himself look strong."

Risch also said Russian President Vladimir Putin should recognize the territorial integrity of Ukraine and "reverse course, immediately."

Sen. Risch is also urging the full U.S. Senate to "immediately" take up and pass legislation called the Never Yielding Europe's Territory Act -- or the "NYET Act." That bill would impose sanctions on major Russian banks, secondary sanctions on banks that continue business with sanctioned Russian banks, and sanctions against "Putin's cronies, enablers and major banks," according to a news release emailed from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Risch said the sanctions in that bill go further than the sanctions President Joe Biden has announced.

"Primary sanctions merely freeze and seize assets. Secondary sanctions do that, plus they stop anybody from doing business with the banks and other financial institutions and other institutions in Russia, and will seize up their economy very quickly," Risch said.

The NYET Act also would provide $500 million in Foreign Military Financing for Ukraine, including $250 million in emergency funding. $100 million of that emergency funding would be for "emergency lethal assistance for critical capabilities like air defense, anti-armor, and anti-ship capabilities." In addition, the legislation would create a new Ukraine Resistance Fund to help Ukraine resist attempts to occupy or subjugate any new territory Russia seizes; authorize a new Lend-Lease authority for Ukraine; and expedite congressional review of arms sales and security assistance to Ukraine.

According to Risch's office, the NYET Act aims to counter Russian malign influence and aggression throughout Europe by doubling funding for U.S. military exercises in Europe; creating a new State Department Foreign Military Financing program for Eastern Europe "to help European allies strengthen their own defensive capabilities and incentivize greater burden-sharing;" boost funding for State Department efforts to counter Russian disinformation, including the Global Engagement Center; and expand broadcasting by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The complete text of the NYET Act is available here (PDF document).

In an exclusive interview with KTVB's Joe Parris, Risch said Russia is, "a nuclear-armed country and a superpower. For them to be taking on a tiny country that really can’t defend itself -- this is madness by a madman."

When asked about the possibility of sending Idahoans overseas, Risch said they're avoiding boots on the ground "at all costs."

"Two nuclear powers cannot get into a fight. So we have over recent years, months, and more robustly recent weeks, sent defensive arms to the Ukrainians, who have committed to defend their country. As long as they’re going to defend their country, we’re going to support them in that regard." Risch said. "Obviously they’re no match for a nuclear power or superpower like Russia, but they have said that they are going to resist. If the Russians try to occupy that country, they’re going to have a lot of trouble doing that. As time goes on, I think it will get worse. We’ll see how it plays out."

A statement from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) calls for "crushing economic sanctions" against Russia. He also said the U.S. should not put troops on the ground, and added that the U.S. "must continue to provide the lethal militaristic tools and technology necessary for Ukraine to defend itself against this barbaric regime."

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