Ukraine Caucus Statements on Recent Russian Aggression Against Ukraine in Sea of Azov

Capture of Ships and Sailors Is A Major Escalation In Russian Harassment of Ukrainian Naval Forces and a Violation of International Law

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) joined co-founders and co-chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), their caucus colleagues and Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Senator James Risch (R-ID) in condemning Russia’s capture of Ukrainian ships and injuring and detention of Ukrainian sailors.

“This is the latest example of Russia attempting to improperly exert influence and control over Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula. The actions taken by Russia over the weekend were dangerous, and once again show that Russia has little regard for the rights of its neighbors. The United States and the rest of the international community must make it clear to Russia that it will not tolerate unjustified aggressive actions like this,” said Senator Ernst.

“I join the international community in condemning this unprovoked and unwarranted Russian aggression against the Ukrainian Navy in the Sea of Azov,” said Senator Portman. “Ukraine has the right to use this international waterway and Russia must immediately release the captured Ukrainian ships and sailors. This unwarranted, unprovoked aggression by Russia is in violation of international law.  In addition to fueling the war in eastern Ukraine and refusing to cease its illegal occupation of Crimea, Russia has harassed hundreds of international commercial vessels in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait over the past several months. This most recent incident in the Sea of Azov highlights the urgent need to bolster Ukraine's naval capabilities and demonstrates why Congress authorized increased naval assistance to Ukraine, such as the recent transfer of the two excess Island-class cutters from the United States Coast Guard to the Ukrainian military.  I and my colleagues stand with the rest of Senate in solidarity with Ukraine.”

“Through cyberattacks, propaganda, military intimidation, and outright invasion, Russia continues to attack Ukrainian sovereignty and international standards. By escalating the tension in the region, Russia’s campaign of aggression in Eastern Europe blazes on. Such blatantly hostile acts must be universally condemned. The United States stands arm and arm with our friends in Ukraine,” said Senator Durbin.

“The Kremlin’s latest attack against Ukraine is not simply another assault by the Kremlin on Ukraine’s sovereignty,” said Senator Shaheen. “With this incident, Putin is sending another unmistakable message to the international community of its intent to reshape international norms by force and fundamentally alter the security and stability that has maintained our global order. It should come as no surprise that those who poison their own citizens on foreign soil are willing to escalate the conflict they started in Ukraine. I urge the transatlantic community to come together again to defend Ukraine with new, more biting measures against the Kremlin. I continue to be proud of the Ukrainian people who have never lost their dignity and motivation to succeed, despite these repeated attacks. I urge all Ukrainian lawmakers to avoid straying from this path, particularly during this difficult period.”

"Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine cannot be tolerated and demands a serious response by the United States and a community of nations,” said Senator Gardner. “I urge the Administration to urgently outline a series of diplomatic, economic, and defense posture measures to deter the Kremlin, such as additional deployments of US and NATO assets in the European theater, sanctions against senior Russian officials and their families, and deep cuts to Russian diplomatic presence in the United States. I also renew my call on the State Department to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. Putin’s global campaign to test our resolve and undermine the United States and our allies cannot go unanswered.”

“Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships this weekend is unacceptable, and this aggression cannot stand unchecked. I join my colleagues in supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against these attacks and stand up to Russian aggression. I was proud to help broker the bipartisan deal to impose tough sanctions on Russia and will continue working with members of this committee and Congress to hold Russia accountable,” said Senator Brown.

“Russia must swiftly release all Ukrainian crew members and vessels, cease the disruption of Ukrainian and international shipping, and allow unhindered access through the Kerch Strait and in the Sea of Azov. I continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and its right to freedom of navigation,” said Senator Johnson.

“Vladimir Putin is a lawless autocrat who has no respect for the rights of his own people, let alone international laws and standards. The overt aggression against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov is the latest in a long series of attacks that have violated the sovereignty of Ukraine. I stand ready to work with my colleagues and the President to assist our Ukrainian allies and punish Russian aggression,” said Senator Toomey.

“Russia’s repeated disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty has undermined Eastern European security, and this unprovoked attack in the Sea of Azov only serves as further evidence that President Putin seeks to destabilize Ukraine and sow uncertainty. Now more than ever, the United States must assert its leadership on the global stage and hold Russia accountable for its dangerous actions. This incident must not go unanswered, and I proudly stand with our Ukrainian allies in their fight against Russian aggression,” said Senator Peters.

“Russia’s most recent attack on Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait is another example of Putin blatantly violating Ukraine’s sovereignty. This unprovoked aggression violates international law, and Russia must immediately release all Ukrainian crew members and vessels, and restore access to the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. This incident is part of a continued pattern of Russian aggression, and the world is watching to see how the United States reacts,” said Senator Murphy.


On Sunday, Russian ships unlawfully attacked three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait in the Sea of Azov.  During the altercation, a Ukrainian ship was damaged, two ships were captured and numerous Ukrainian sailors were injured.  U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, condemned Russia at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in the strongest terms, saying “This is no way for a law-abiding civilized nation to act. Impeding Ukraine’s lawful transit through the Kerch Strait is a violation under international law. It is an arrogant act that the international community must condemn and will never accept. In the name of international peace and security, Russia must immediately cease its unlawful conduct and respect the navigational rights and freedoms of all states.”