Shaheen’s travel visa denied by Kremlin; Senators cancel trip

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse Wednesday March 30, 2016 in Concord, N.H., about the need to hold hearings on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Friday, December 29, 2017

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen won’t be making a scheduled trip to Russia early next year after her travel visa was denied by the Kremlin, officials said Friday.

Shaheen has been outspoken in her support of Russian sanctions passed overwhelmingly by Congress in response to possible election meddling. She was among a bipartisan group of senators calling for sanctions in January to counter Russian cyberaggression.

“Senator Shaheen understands that the Kremlin has designated her under a travel sanction and therefore, the (trip) she planned to attend has been canceled,” Shaheen spokesman Ryan Nickel said Friday. “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.”

Shaheen, along with Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Barrasso of Wyoming, were scheduled to leave the country Jan. 11, and visit Russia to meet with civil society groups. Both Republican Senators have announced plans to cancel their trip – which also included stops in the Ukraine and Germany – in solidarity with Shaheen, according to reports

Shaheen, Johnson and Barasso all serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, affording them the ability to influence the sanctions bill signed by President Donald Trump earlier this year.

A statement released by the Russian embassy Friday said Shaheen had been placed on a “blacklist” in response to U.S. sanctions against the country. But it painted the incident as ultimately America’s fault, and argued it had given the U.S. the option of lifting sanctions on Russia’s lawmakers in exchange for entry into the country.

“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 parliamentarians in the ‘black lists’ on reciprocal basis. Unfortunately, this proposal was rejected by the American side,” the embassy statement said. “More generally, we didn’t create this situation. We have repeatedly offered to Washington to renounce sanctions as a detrimental method of conducting foreign policy. Harm set – harm get.”

Shaheen isn’t the first U.S. lawmaker to be given the cold shoulder by the Kremlin. Three Congressmen and three Senators were barred from traveling to Russia in 2014 over a series of sanctions issued in response to the country’s decision to annex Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

Then-Speaker John Boehner and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were among the lawmakers barred from traveling to the country, as were current U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

(Staff writer Lola Duffort contributed to this report.)