By Derrick Perkins (File photo)
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) is among 13 Americans no longer welcome in Russia, apparently in retaliation for similar travel restrictions Washington placed upon officials there and in Crimea.
The group of banned U.S. officials includes several involved in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal as well as those connected to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. For his part, Moran believes his work in blocking the U.S. from buying Rosoboronexport-made helicopters earned him a spot on the blacklist.
The Russian arms dealer is a major supplier to the Assad regime in Syria, Moran said in a statement.
The former Alexandria mayor also joined lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to cut ties with Rosoboronexport partially in response to the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. That group included Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas).
Moran used the announcement of his persona non grata status in Russia to urge Moscow to take responsibility for the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet last week. The jetliner crashed with 298 passengers and crew in a contested area of war-torn Ukraine after getting hit by a surface-to-air missile, officials said.
“While this does clarify my overseas travel plans, it seems that [President Vladimir Putin’s] regime would be better served by addressing the consequences of encouraging and enabling Donetsk separatists to perform such a heinous act of cold blooded cruelty or utter incompetence that resulted in the mass murder of nearly 300 innocent civilians,” he said.
While the pro-Western government in Kiev, Ukrainian separatists and Moscow have blamed one another for the tragedy, U.S. officials — including Secretary of State John Kerry — cite mounting evidence that the Russian-backed breakaway movement is responsible for the tragedy.
As international outrage grew this week, wreckage from the craft, as well as the victims’ bodies, increasingly appeared to be used as negotiating chips in the diplomatic showdown. Reporters on the scene in the days after the crash reported seeing ill-equipped and poorly-trained recovery crews moving among the debris, with separatists accused of rifling through the victims’ belongings and carrying off evidence.
It was the turmoil in Ukraine that first prompted Washington in March to ban 12 officials in Moscow and Crimea from entering the U.S. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Moscow’s subsequent travel ban seems a direct response.
Moran’s office noted that the Northern Virginia Democrat had no plans to visit Russia anyway.