Senate sources said on Saturday that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky pinned blame for Russia’s invasion into Ukraine on Democrat President Joe Biden’s refusal to enact sanctions against Russia before Russia launched the invasion.
Zelensky told Senators that if the U.S. “had started sanctions months ago, there would not have been war.”
Reuters noted just a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine that Biden was “refus[ing] to unleash sanctions on Russia” until Russia invaded, despite numerous officials, including Zelensky, saying that the sanctions could stop the invasion from happening.
“You tell me 100% that there will be war in a few days’ time. What are you waiting for?” Zelensky said before the invasion. “We will not need your sanctions after there is a bombardment, or after our state is shot at, or if we have no more borders, we do not have an economy, or parts of our state is occupied.”
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) slammed Biden during an interview with The Daily Wire, saying that the sanctions that Biden had planned for Russia were nothing more than a “slap on the wrist.”
“The sanctions that they want to put on [Russia] are nothing, it’s kind of like a slap on the wrist,” Tuberville said several days before Russia invaded. “We’ve come up with sanctions on the Republican side that are real strong, pre and post, if they come in. So, I think it’s a huge mistake that we haven’t put some sanctions on at the beginning, said, ‘Hey, this is the start. This is how it’s gonna work. And if you think about going in, then they’re gonna get much worse.’ They need to feel that.”
CBS News added the following details of Zelensky’s Zoom call with lawmakers:
Zelensky told lawmakers that Ukraine needs jets because its air force was destroyed on day one of the Russian invasion, according to another source who was on the call. And he asked for an oil embargo on Russia, which he said would be the most significant factor for Ukraine. Zelensky told lawmakers that if there had been sanctions in place in September or October, there would not have been an invasion.
The urgency of Zelensky’s requests was evident from the outset — he opened with a remark along the lines of “this might be the last time you see me alive.” He warned them that after Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop. Poland and Lithuania, both NATO members, will be next. He called on the U.S. to send planes and troops there now to prepare, and to release surplus Warsaw Pact planes — MIGs and Sukohvs — from Poland and other countries. A source familiar with the call said that the subject of a no-fly zone came up.
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This report has been updated to include additional information.