- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sen. Chris Murphy on Tuesday became the second U.S. lawmaker in as many days to say the Russian government blocked their involvement in an upcoming congressional delegation.

Mr. Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement that Russia denied him a visa to enter the country as part of an upcoming bipartisan congressional delegation being planned, echoing an announcement made a day earlier by Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican.

Both of the lawmakers sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and each has been among the more vocal critics on Capitol Hill of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“While I’ve been a tough critic of the Kremlin, I also believe it’s important to maintain dialogue especially during moments of tension,” Mr. Murphy said. “As the owners of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals with the capacity to destroy each other many times over, we have a responsibility to keep the world safe and prevent conflict between the U.S. and Russia. Unfortunately, the Russian government is further isolating their country by blocking our visit and several others in recent months.

“With the collapse of recent arms control agreements and significant domestic opposition to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, this is potentially a perilous moment for our two nations’ fragile relationship, and it’s a shame that Russia isn’t interested in dialogue,” Mr. Murphy said in a statement.

Mr. Johnson said on Monday that he had been denied a visa to participate in the upcoming congressional delegation; Moscow said that he had not applied for a visa but would be blocked from entering because he was blacklisted after the U.S. previously imposed travel sanctions on several Russians.

“In his usual russophobic manner he distorts Russian foreign policy and allows himself rude remarks. Based on that it is unlikely one can seriously take his statements of alleged intentions to restore direct dialogue with Russian parliamentarians,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Monday.

The foreign ministry did not immediately comment publicly about Mr. Murphy, and additional details about the upcoming congressional delegation have not been announced.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Johnson teamed up together last year to introduce a Senate resolution condemning Russia for attacking Ukrainian vessels seized in the Kerch Strait. The measure ultimately cleared the Senate by unanimous consent.

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