Lawmakers decry Russian invasion, call for sanctions and divestment

By: - March 1, 2022 2:10 pm

People hold flags and posters during a protest against Russian attack on Ukraine near the Russian Embassy, on February 24, 2022 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Overnight, Russia began a large-scale attack on Ukraine, with explosions reported in multiple cities and far outside the restive eastern regions held by Russian-backed rebels. | Paulius Peleckis/Getty Images

As Russia continues its large-scale military assault on Ukraine, Michigan lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are coming forward to condemn the invasion and express solidarity with Ukraine.

There were several legislative actions on this front Tuesday, including a Senate resolution urging the “world community” and United Nations (UN) to issue further sanctions against Russia.

“[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has continued to demonstrate a dangerous disregard for international law and a chilling indifference to the unnecessary loss of human life,” reads Senate Resolution 111. “…It is vital that we remain united in our condemnation of statements and actions that portend a global nuclear threat.”

The measure, introduced by state Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Paul Wojno (D-Warren), was adopted by the chamber unanimously on Tuesday. It calls for copies of the resolution to be sent to the president of the Russian Federation, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the Michigan congressional delegation.

Putin launched a full-scale invasion on its neighboring country last week, provoking strong backlash and economic sanctions from many countries including the United States. The Russian president has held onto power since 1999.

SR 111 argues that his invasion of Ukraine “demonstrates a blatant violation of the [1994] Budapest Memorandum” between the United States, Russia and Great Britain.

“Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine has already caused so much needless anguish and loss of life — including children,” Chang said in a statement Tuesday. “We must have international unity and condemnation against the Russian government. We must show our support for all people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and as many flee their country seeking safety.

“We must also support Ukrainian Americans in Michigan and their families who are affected by this crisis.”

Wojno emphasized that the condemnations and sanctions are specifically targeted at the Kremlin and Russian oligarchs for their “megalomaniacal attack on the people of Ukraine,” not the people of Russia.

“We stand with the people of Ukraine and democracy because any attack on democracy is an attack on all of us,” Wojno added. “We must work together and unite in this condemnation to send a message that if a government disregards the global order of law, they will be held accountable — and there are consequences for those actions.”

We stand with the people of Ukraine and democracy because any attack on democracy is an attack on all of us.

– State Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren)

In the Michigan House, two state lawmakers also announced their own efforts to condemn Russia’s actions.

State Rep. Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond) said Tuesday that he sent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a letter formally requesting her to direct the state to stop buying Russian-made products.

“Although these individual acts taken alone may not largely impact the Russian economy, we must all come together, and do everything we can to starve the Russian war machine and make it clear to this dictator that there will be retribution for his unconscionable act of totalitarianism,” Yaroch writes.

Specifically, Yaroch’s letter calls for Whitmer to direct the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to halt all purchases of Russian liquor. The commission is part of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which is overseen by the House Appropriations subcommittee that Yaroch chairs.

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) also announced new legislation that would add Russia to the list of countries in Michigan’s Divestment from Terror Act.

That act, enacted in 2008, prohibits the investment of any state money or assets from companies with business operations connected to countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

That list currently includes the governments of Syria, Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

By adding Russia, Michigan would be required to immediately divest from any business ties with the country.

“The loss of life and needless suffering happening in Ukraine is because of Vladimir Putin and his unprovoked and illegal war on a peaceful, neighboring country. It is senseless and heartbreaking,” Camilleri said in a statement.

“Governments, banks, and businesses across the world have made it clear that now is the time to take action to isolate Russia from the global financial system. The State of Michigan has a role to play in this as well — as Michiganders, we must do our part to hinder the Russian war effort and the Russian economy that supports it,” he continued.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.