A Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has been denied a visa to Russia, and her Republican colleagues have vowed retaliation in a rare show of bipartisanship. Republicans Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming were scheduled to join Shaheen on a trip to Moscow, but decided not to go after her visa was rejected.
“The decision to deny a visa to a member of our Senate delegation is extremely unfortunate and counterproductive to improving relations between our nations,” said Johnson.
“While she regrets the Kremlin decision to impede dialogue between the Senate and the Russian people, she vows to continue her work to hold the Russian government accountable for its actions that go against international norms and against the Russian people,” a Shaheen spokesperson said.
Shaheen has been an outspoken advocate of sanctions against Russia for their alleged participation in interference in the 2016 American presidential election. Their participation has been agreed on by nearly every American intelligence agency, though the issue has become politicized due to the on-going FBI investigation into President Trump’s involvement in the matter. Shaheen is allegedly on a Russian “black list” for her stance in this case.
A Russian spokesperson at their U.S. Embassy denied that the visit was canceled because of Russia. The “attempt to present this situation as if the visit was cancelled because of the Russian side is totally biased and untrue,” said the spokesman Nikolay Lakhonin. “In fact, we proposed different ways out of the situation, including reaching an agreement to issue visas to [lawmakers] in the ‘black lists’ on reciprocal basis. Unfortunately, this proposal was rejected by the American side.”
He continued that the fault lies in American sanctions, which he called “a detrimental method of conducting foreign policy.”
“We are still in favour of resuming inter-parliamentary ties and hope that contacts between the lawmakers of our countries, which were unanimously halted by US Congress, will resume,” he said, pointing out that several Russian lawmakers are on American sanction lists and calling for their removal.
“Beyond the evidence of direct links between Mr. Kaspersky and the Russian government, we cannot ignore the indirect links inherent in doing business in the Russia of President Vladimir Putin, where oligarchs and tycoons have no choice but to cooperate with the Kremlin,” Shaheen previously wrote.