Washington – Sen. Chris Murphy said Monday he was denied a visa to visit Russia next week as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation.
“While I’ve been a tough critic of the Kremlin, I also believe it’s important to maintain dialogue especially during moments of tension,” Murphy said in a statement. “With the collapse of recent arms control agreements and significant domestic opposition to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, this is potentially a perilous moment for our two nations’ fragile relationship, and it’s a shame that Russia isn’t interested in dialogue.”
A second member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also said on Monday he was denied a visa for the trip.
A third member of the delegation, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was issued a visa, according to the senator’s spokesman, Conn Carroll.
Lee blocked legislation aimed at protecting former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections and said “there’s no there there” about the probe.
Lee also recently was only one of two senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against a bill that aims to stop Russia from completing a new European gas pipeline that poses a threat to American, European and Ukrainian interests.
Johnson called his visa denial “a petty affront.” Johnson also said he had been working with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. in the hopes that “direct dialogue with Russian parliamentarians could help set the stage for better future relations between our two nations.”
In a statement released on Twitter, the Russian government said Johnson’s “groundless accusations against Russia leave no doubt he is not ready for a dialogue, but for a confrontation.”
It also said Johnson did not apply for a visa at the Russian embassy in Washington D.C., or inform the Russian government of his plans to visit.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington said it had “no comment yet” on Murphy’s statement that he has also been denied entry into the country.
Murphy said “as the owners of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals with the capacity to destroy each other many times over, we have a responsibility to keep the world safe and prevent conflict between the U.S. and Russia.”
“Unfortunately, the Russian government is further isolating their country by blocking our visit and several others in recent months,” Murphy said.
Instead of traveling to Russia, Murphy will visit Berlin, then join Johnson for a trip to Serbia, Kosovo and Ukraine.
Lee plans to visit Russia next week.