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Ohio's Republican US Senator meets with Ukrainian ambassador, wants more pressure on Russia

 US 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.
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US 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 US Senator was among those from both parties who met with the Ukrainian ambassador to the US, and says 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 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 US 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 US 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. And Portman 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.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.