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Republican senators skip Russia trip after Kremlin snubs Shaheen

Two Republican senators scrap a Russia visit as their Democratic colleague is denied a visa.

A spokesman for Russia’s embassy in the US said Saturday that New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen had been rejected as she was blacklisted by the Kremlin as a response to the US sanctions on Moscow, Politico reported.

“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,” said Shaheen spokesman Ryan Nickel.

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen attends a panel talk at the third day of the 53rd Munich Security Conference (MSC) at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, southern Germany, on February 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Therefore, her GOP colleagues, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming, both called off the trip as well.

“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, the chairman of the US Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a statement.

The spokesman or Russia’s US embassy, Nikolay Lakhonin, noted, meanwhile, that the “attempt to present this situation as if the visit was cancelled because of the Russian side is totally biased and untrue… 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 added that the sanctions imposed on Russia demonstrate “a detrimental method of conducting foreign policy.”

“We are still in favor of resuming inter-parliamentary ties and hope that contacts between the lawmakers of our countries, which were unanimously halted by US Congress, will resume,” Lakhonin said.

Shaheen has been a staunch supporter of pressuring Moscow through sanctions as well as crackdown on Russia’s Kaspersky Lab.

Her Republican colleagues’ reaction has apparently been embraced by the senator.

“Johnson stuck to his guns on this,” a Shaheen spokesman said. “He put his foot down and maintained that if Senator Shaheen can’t go, then it’s not happening.”

In September, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) banned the use of software produced by the Russian firm in federal agencies and departments, arguing it would pose a threat against the US national security.

“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 wrote in a New York Times op-ed at the time.

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