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Sen. Portman meets with Ukrainian ambassador, wants more pressure on Russia

 U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) tweeted out this photo after he attended a rally and prayer vigil for Ukraine in Parma on Sunday, February 27, 2022.
Sen. Rob Portman
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) tweeted out this photo after he attended a rally and prayer vigil for Ukraine in Parma on Sunday, February 27, 2022.

Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senator was among those from both parties who met with the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., and said there’s more that can be done to put pressure on Russia and help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion.

Rob Portman said he and other other Senators met with Ambassador Oksana Markarova Monday night.

Portman said more weapons and ammunition are headed to Ukraine through a presidential decision, but he said Congress needs to act on a supplemental appropriations bill to increase military assistance.

Portman is a former US Trade Representative. He said Russia should be cut off from permanent normal trade relations with the United States.

“We can do that under the World Trade Organization rules, and I encourage other countries to do it as well," Portman said. "Invading a sovereign nation, an independent democracy no less, is certainly grounds to take that privilege away. We have the right to do it and we should do it.”

In a call with reporters, Portman also floated other ideas, such as removing all Russian banks from SWIFT messaging system used by banks and seizing Russian assets.

“Seizing these assets instead of just freezing them is a way to increase the pressure," Portman said.

He also called for the U.S. to close its airspace to Russian aircraft, which President Biden announced in his State of the Union speech a few hours later.

Portman also said the U.S. should stop buying Russian oil and gas, which he says amounts to 600,000 barrels a day, and suggested revoking a presidential order stopping new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

That order from early 2021 was blocked, and the Biden administration is now delaying decisions on drilling after a federal court ruling last month. But the Biden administration has approved more drilling permits on public lands each month than Trump's administration did in his first three years in office.

Portman was at a rally and prayer vigil in the Cleveland area Sunday, where he said more than a thousand people attended, and he said he'll be at another event for Ukraine this Sunday.

Portman voted not to impeach former President Trump in 2020 over his call with the Ukrainian president, though he has been critical of that call. He also has said he pushed Trump to release hundreds of millions in aid to Ukraine that was part of the impeachment case.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.