Russian blacklist of Americans includes, and excludes, several Utahns
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who was one of 11 senators that voted against sending $40 billion in aid to Ukraine, is still allowed to travel to Russia
Nearly 1,000 Americans have been permanently banned from Russia in a symbolic move that lists politicians, businesspeople, activists, journalists and celebrities, most alive but some deceased.
Several Utahns made the list, including all but one member of the Utah delegation. Sen. Mike Lee, who was among 11 Republicans to vote against a $40 billion defensive and humanitarian aid package directed at Ukraine, was not blacklisted.
Meanwhile, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Reps. John Curtis, Burgess Owens and Blake Moore are all barred from traveling to Russia. Dale Kimball, a U.S. District Court judge in Utah, and former Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman were also included.
Being blacklisted, Romney said, is “not a surprise.”
“I have spoken for many years about the malevolent designs of Vladimir Putin and his government and it continues to be a force for oppression of other people,” Romney told the Deseret News on Wednesday.
Romney has long advocated for a hardline approach toward Putin, calling Russia one of the country’s biggest geopolitical threats during his 2012 presidential bid. The senator says he won’t be losing sleep over his permanent travel ban.
“I can tell you, having been to Russia in the past, I’m not at all sorry that I won’t ever be going again,” he said. “... The best food I got in Russia was at McDonalds and they are closing anyways.”
The list, amounting to 963 Americans, was published on Saturday by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which two weeks ago sanctioned 398 members of Congress.
It includes President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Most are U.S. politicians, ranging from Republican firebrands like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, and Matt Gaetz, of Florida, to progressives like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., were blacklisted; however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was not.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky were also named, as Russian officials continue to suppress access to most social media platforms.
Actor Morgan Freeman, who has been outspoken against Russia’s invasion, was also hit with a permanent ban.
“Russia does not seek confrontation and is open to honest, mutually respectful dialogue, separating the American people, who are always respected by us, from the U.S. authorities, who incite Russophobia, and those who serve them,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a news release. “It is these people who are included in the Russian ‘black list.’”
Several deceased lawmakers are also now barred from entering Russia, including Sens. Harry Reid, John McCain and Orrin Hatch, who just weeks ago was buried in the Cache Valley.
Hatch was critical of Russia up until his retirement, denouncing Putin’s administration for its interference in the 2016 election.
Lee was among the last U.S. politicians and the latest member of the Utah delegation to visit Russia. The senator toured the country in September 2019 despite Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., being denied visas, and said talks with Russian officials can help “push Russian behavior in the right direction.”
“If our relationship with Russia is ever going to improve, its aggressive behavior must stop. That is the message I delivered to every Russian official I met with on my trip to Moscow earlier this month,” he wrote in the Deseret News at the time.
The trip was endorsed by former Utah Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr., who served in Moscow under the Trump administration.
Both Trump and Huntsman were not included in Russia’s list, as is the case with most high-profile officials from the prior administration, excluding former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.
Lee has denounced Putin and the Russian invasion in statements and on Twitter, but stopped short at voting in favor of a massive $40 billion package to deliver aid to Ukraine. In an attempt to amend the bill, Lee said he had concerns over spending amid historic inflation and a lack of oversight.
But the “no” vote alone likely wasn’t the reason for avoiding a travel ban, as Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, both voted against the package and were on Russia’s list.
The rest of the “no” votes in the Senate — Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.; Josh Hawley, R-Mo.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. — were not blacklisted.