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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘A badge of honor’: Northwest lawmakers, Spokane Valley resident among hundreds of Americans banned from Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 20, 2022.   (Mikhail Metzel)

WASHINGTON – The Kremlin has banned nearly 1,000 Americans from traveling to Russia, including most Northwest members of Congress and a former diplomat who lives in Spokane Valley, in retaliation for U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for invading Ukraine.

The list of 963 names, released Saturday by the Russian Foreign Ministry, includes all but one member of Washington’s congressional delegation as well as Ryan Crocker, a retired diplomat who served as ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and four other countries. The Spokane Valley native called the list – which includes three deceased senators and actor Morgan Freeman, but not former presidents Barack Obama or Donald Trump – “pathetic” and a “grab bag” of names.

“I consider it a badge of honor to be on their list,” Crocker said. “You compare what the (Biden) administration is doing in its sanctions – they’re thoughtful, methodical, going after people who really count – this, in contrast, just looks silly.”

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dismissed the travel ban as meaningless saber rattling and quoted the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was included on the list despite dying in 2018.

“There go my vacations in Siberia,” Risch said, recalling McCain.

Crocker, who knew McCain from his time in the Foreign Service, said of the late senator, “If there is a heaven, I’m sure he’s getting a huge laugh out of this.”

In a news release that accompanied the list, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the travel ban is in response to U.S. sanctions and claimed Russia “does not seek confrontation,” according to a translation of the Russian-language statement by The Washington Post. It made a distinction between ordinary Americans, “who are always respected by us,” from U.S. authorities “who incite Russophobia.”

The list includes hundreds of current and former members of Congress, many of whom have happily accepted the sanctions as evidence of their support for Ukrainians and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Being banned from Russia certainly won’t disrupt any of my travel plans,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said in a statement. “But at this point, if you’re at odds with the Russian government, you’re more than likely doing something right.”

Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Tacoma, wrote on Twitter, “When Putin sanctions you, then bans you from entering Russia, you know you’re on the right side of history.”

The only federal lawmaker from Washington not included on the list is Sen. Patty Murray, a member of Democratic leadership who has sharply criticized Russia’s invasion and has voted to provide Ukraine with billions in military and humanitarian assistance. It was unclear why Murray was left off the list, but several other prominent lawmakers also didn’t make the cut, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“Sen. Murray has been unequivocal in condemning Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, its war crimes, and the humanitarian catastrophe it has created,” spokesman Zack DiGregorio said in a statement. “She will continue to do everything in her power get aid to those in Ukraine who need it.”

The Russian embassy in Washington did not respond to questions from The Spokesman-Review about how the list was compiled and why Murray wasn’t included.

Other notable omissions include former President George W. Bush, who was not sanctioned despite several members of his administration making the list. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the list, but her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is not.

Freeman, an Academy Award-winning actor, was included because he recorded a video in 2017 criticizing Russia’s government for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Other names were listed with no rationale given, including Seattle-based psychiatrist Richard Adler. It is unclear why Adler was included on the list.

Two other deceased senators, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, also appear on the sanctions list.