NJ Sen. Menendez banned from Russia

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Menendez has been banned from Russia.

The New Jersey Democrat, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an outspoken critic of Russia's annexation of Crimea, is one of six lawmakers and three top Obama administration aides who have been barred from visiting the country. The Russian government issued the bans in response to new U.S. economic sanctions.

Menendez, who is scheduled to deliver a keynote address in Brussels Saturday at a meeting of European Union and NATO leaders, took pride in the ban and even began a hashtag on Twitter: #SanctionedByPutin. It quickly took off with fellow lawmakers.

“President Putin's military invasion and annexation of Crimea is brutal, totally unacceptable, and sadly returns us to a period of Cold War aggression and hostility,” Menendez said in a news release. “It doesn't have to be this way but, if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard earned democracy and sovereignty means I'm sanctioned by Putin, so be it."

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) quipped in a news release: “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen. Nontheless I will never cease my efforts on behalf of the freedom, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.”

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