New Haven — Last weekend during a visit to New Haven, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy predicted that Russia would never send its military into Ukraine.

“I can’t imagine Russia would use military force,” said Murphy, Connecticut’s leading politician in dealing with the crisis in that Eastern European nation. “I can’t even imagine the descent into madness that would occur if Russian marched into Ukraine.”

Murphy was back in New Haven Saturday, addressing Ukraine at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Church on George Street, after Russia had in face marched in to seize control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

“There clearly have to be consequences to Russia,” he said. “Russia wants to be part of the global economic community.” With American military intervention unlikely, he said, economic pressure is the best to change Russia’s behavior. He cautioned, however, that the United States’ influence on Russia is limited by the relatively small amount of direct trade between the two countries; it will be up to Europe, he said, to make Russia feel economic pain.

Murphy is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on European Affairs. In December, visiting Kiev with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Murphy addressed a mass protest rally.

The crowd at St. Michael’s Saturday was not fully satisfied by Murphy’s message. Several people incredulously asked how Russia could get away with breaking its promise to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But they said they appreciated Murphy’s commitment, which the senator cast in terms of responsibility to his constituents.

“I care about this issue because you care about this issue,” Murphy said, noting that about 40,000 Ukrainian-Americans live in Connecticut. “You have helped to build this state. You have helped to build the towns and communities I call home.”

In response to a question about what the Ukrainian-American community can do to help, Murphy brought up political obstacles: It would be difficult, he said, to get House Republicans to agree to sending financial aid to Ukraine. He urged the people in the crowd to ask their friends and family in other parts of the country to pressure their representatives to support an aid package.

During the visit to the church the names of the 92 protesters who died in the violence in Kiev last week were read aloud. Alex Kuzma noticed something: at least a third were Russian.

That, he told Murphy, should help disprove “the misconception that just because people speak Russian, they’re allied to Russia.”

Murphy said he would incorporate that into his talking points as he tries to rally his colleagues in Congress to support the new Ukrainian government.

This story appears in the New Haven Independent.

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