At least five lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are preparing efforts to label Russia a state terror sponsor amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced legislation that would add Russia to a list of designated State Sponsors of Terrorism. The bill is already cosponsored by Reps. Jared Golden (D-ME), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).
As examples of terrorist activity, a draft version of the bill lists Russian military killings of civilians during the Second Chechen War and military support for Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad during the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
The draft legislation also notes Russian support for a mercenary force known as the Wagner Group which has been accused of targeting civilians throughout conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, and Libya. The legislation state’s Russia uses ‘the Wagner Group to ‘project power cheaply and deniably.”
The legislation also notes civilian deaths as a result of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as years of support for separatist activity in Ukraine before the invasion began.
“Since 2014, the Government of the Russian Federation has supported separatists engaging in acts of violence against Ukrainian civilians in the Donbas region,” the legislation states.
The legislation describes numerous alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine and the “indiscriminate targeting of civilian centers.”
“At the direction of President Vladimir Putin, the Government of the Russian Federation has and continues to promote acts of international terrorism against political opponents and nation states,” the draft reads.
If the bill passes, Russia would join a list kept by the U.S. State Department that currently includes Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria.
Last week, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution that would call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take action on his end to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. The House legislation would instead require the U.S. government to officially list Russia as a state terror sponsor.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose department oversees the state terror sponsors list, has been reluctant to add a terrorism label against Russia on his own. During a press conference on Thursday, Blinken said the terrorism label wouldn’t change much, since the U.S. is already heavily sanctioning Russia.
“The costs that have been imposed on Russia by us and by other countries are absolutely in line with the consequences that would follow from designation as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Blinken said, the New York Times reported. “So the practical effects of what we’re doing are the same.”
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “Washington runs the risk of finally crossing the point of no return with all the ensuing consequences,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also tweeted a statement from Zakharova, who said, “Having exhausted its sanctions arsenal, the US lawmakers reached out for the ‘potent weapon’ of designating Moscow as a ‘sponsor of terrorism.’ Make no mistake, if Washington decides to suspend its ties with Moscow, we can live with it.”