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Washington Senate passes resolution honoring Ukrainian people as ‘shocking’ Russian invasion intensifies

March 2, 2022 Updated Wed., March 2, 2022 at 9:15 p.m.

Washington State Legislative Building in Olympia.  (Albert James/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Legislative Building in Olympia. (Albert James/The Spokesman-Review)
By Albert James The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution in support of the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian Americans.

The resolution, which was co-sponsored by all 49 members of the Senate, comes after legislative budget writers included about $19 million in this year’s supplemental operating budget for Ukrainian refugees coming to Washington.

The Senate recognized the “democratic values shared by the people of Washington State and the people of Ukraine,” and condemned “the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine,” according to the text of the resolution.

In a floor debate marked by numerous emotional moments, senators told stories about their ties to Ukraine and Eastern Europe and their encounters with Ukrainian individuals. A group of Ukrainian and Ukrainian Americans, led by Valeriy Goloborodko, honorary consul of Ukraine for Washington and Oregon, watched the proceedings with Ukrainian flags in hand from the chamber gallery.

Sen. Jaime Pedersen, D-Seattle, said he had visited Russia and Ukraine numerous times as a college student. He was there during the “magical time” where Ukraine became an independent country, “as they were looking forward to independence, to freedom and to a chance to write their own destiny,” he said.

“It just makes me heartsick to see what is happening to those brave and proud people these days,” Pedersen said.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, told a story about how he hosted a Ukrainian student as part of an agricultural education exchange program soon before the Iron Curtain fell. He said he was able to develop a deep understanding of that student and the Soviet Union , and has thought about that student as the situation in Ukraine has developed over the past few weeks.

“My family’s heart wonders what happened to the young man,” Schoesler said.

Pedersen likened the dynamic along the Ukraine/Russia border to that of the Washington/Oregon border – people and goods flow uninterrupted and people have connections on both sides of the border. What is going on in the region today is, he said, “as if Washington went to war with Oregon.”

“The fact that those people are now in a position of fighting with each other is shocking in 2022,” Pedersen said. “I think we had all believed and hoped that we had left that part of our world, part of our history behind.”

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, said both Ukrainians and Russians opposed to the conflict should be lifted up during this time. The fight is not between Ukrainians and Russians, he said, but between Ukrainians and “one man who chose this dangerous and violent pathway – President Putin - and the small number of kleptocrats who prop him up in Russia.”

On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a review of state money to see if any of it was going to Russian companies or investments in the country. Inslee said state agencies should expect to sever ties with any Russian companies, and encouraged private businesses to do the same. Inslee met with members of the Ukrainian community in Washington on Wednesday, including members of the Ukrainian Association of Washington State, the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and the Ukrainian Community Center of Washington.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Hoodsport, called for the United States to stop purchasing oil and natural gas from Russia. While Americans could see cost increases, he said, “it makes no sense to pay a despot like Putin for his natural resources” while sending aid to those he is attacking.

“I don’t think there is anyone in this country that would not make that sacrifice – make it today – for the Ukrainian people,” Sheldon said. “Sure, it might cost us a little more money. I’m sure we can afford it, because we cannot afford to watch what’s happening on the television set any longer. It has to end soon.”

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