Amid reporting that Vladimir Putin has hired hundreds of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a combat veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is leading her colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to investigate and sanction the Wagner Group and its affiliates.
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ernst and her colleagues write, “We write today to express our concern regarding recent reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has hired hundreds of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. We ask for immediate action to be taken to investigate these reports and to impose economic sanctions through the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) pursuant to Executive Order 14024 on the Wagner Group, including Yevgeny Prigozhin, Dmitry Utkin, and Konstantin Pikalov, as well as any other known affiliates.”
The letter continues, “According to the reports, the Wagner Group entered Ukraine at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the goal to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to undermine the peace, security, political stability, and territorial integrity of Ukraine as part of the Russian invasion. We owe it to our allies to punish private actors to the greatest extent possible that directly participate in Russia’s warmongering in Ukraine and we urge you to take all necessary measures to hold them accountable.”
Ernst is joined on the letter by Sens. Grassley (R-Iowa), Graham (R-S.C.), Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Braun (R-Ind.).