The Russian government has barred Sen. Ron Johnson from visiting Russia next week as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation, saying that the Wisconsin Republican is on a government blacklist.
Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said Monday that the Russian government had denied his visa to take part in the visit.
“I had hoped direct dialogue with Russian parliamentarians could help set the stage for better future relations between our two nations,” Johnson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Russian officials continue to play diplomatic games with this sincere effort and have denied me entrance to Russia.”
“Regardless of this petty affront, I will continue to advocate a strong and resolute response to Russian aggression — and frank dialogue when possible.”
The Russian government disputed Johnson’s claim that his visa had been denied, saying that the lawmaker did not apply for entry at the Russian embassy. Instead, Johnson was barred from traveling to Russia because he is on a blacklist instituted in response to the U.S. government’s sanctions against Russian government officials.
“Senator Ron Johnson’s groundless accusations against Russia leave no doubts — he is ready not for a dialogue, but for a confrontation,” the Russian embassy said in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday.
“We have long been calling on the United States to remove lawmakers from any travel restrictions as the first step towards abolition of ‘blacklists.’”
We have long been calling on the #UnitedStates???????? to remove lawmakers from any travel restrictions as a first step towards abolition of «blacklists». #BTW the senator did not apply for a visa at our Embassy and did not inform about his plans to visit @Russia???????? https://t.co/SQLA4uvKPh pic.twitter.com/RQXBHozJg0
— Russia in USA ???????? (@RusEmbUSA) August 27, 2019
Johnson noted in his statement that he has supported aggressive legislation against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. He “has led and supported a number of pieces of legislation that aim to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in Ukraine and its targeting of dissidents,” his office said in a statement.
Johnson also sponsored a bill to rename a street in front of the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. after Boris Nemtsov, a Russian dissident assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.
In an ironic twist, Democrats blasted Johnson and seven fellow Republican senators last year for visiting Russia as part of an effort to thaw relations with Moscow.
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