During the President’s Friday, July 15 video address, whilst reminding citizens to obey air raid warnings, Volodymyr Zelensky said that the “invaders understand that we are gradually becoming stronger. The purpose of their terror is very simple – to put pressure on us, to put pressure on our society, to intimidate people, to cause maximum damage to Ukrainian cities.”

Following the Russian missile strikes in Poltava and Vinnytsia, where dozens of civilians were killed, calls to officially list Russia among the countries sponsoring terrorism has increased in both Kyiv and Washington.

This past May, Lithuania became the first European country to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, while bipartisan resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives to have Russia put onto the list of infamy.

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According to the US State Department, there are four types of sanctions that come with being designated as a government that is sponsoring terrorism, which include “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.”

Ingrid Wuerth, the Helen Strong Curry Chair in International Law at Vanderbilt Law School, in an article for “Just Security,” argues that the US’ Congress’ push to coerce Sec. of State Blinken to designate Russia as a sponsor of terrorism would be bad move. Among other arguments, Wuerth argues that current sanctions that the US has implemented on Ukraine have already been significant and that the additional terrorism designation would provide little additional pressure on Moscow.

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Photos of the victims began appearing on social networks not long after the attacks. 

The viewpoint that little real change would come was cited by a State Department Spokesman over a month ago. The Foggy Bottom official said, however, that the “sanctions we have in place and have taken are the same steps that would be entailed by the designation of a state sponsor of terrorism.”

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Current US sanctions against Russia already exceed the nature and quantity of sanctions imposed against any other country in American history. Aside from arguments, primarily from European quarters, that this removes an “off ramp” to Putin, some have voiced concern that future peace negotiations with Russia would be rocked by officially recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism – a designation that has so rarely been used historically.

The American list of state sponsors of terrorism currently consists of North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Cuba. Cuba, which was removed from the list by Pres. Barack Obama during a rare thaw of bilateral relations, was put back on the list by Pres. Donald Trump, a move that this predecessor, Pres. Joe Biden, has yet moved to change.

However, Prof. Wuerth goes on to observe that a major downside is that one of the few changes that Russia would feel, following this designation, is that US citizens, in a move that would likely be copied by other countries, would be entitled to suing Russia for damages against them since Russia’s foreign sovereign immunity would be removed.

The move, at this point, Wuerth contends, is that then the amount of overseas assets already seized from Russia by Western countries would begin to be divided up by foreign citizens suing Russia, thus leaving less money available to eventually be turned over to Ukraine for damages.

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US Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and Republican Lindsey Graham, during their Kyiv last week, echoed the view that Russia’s actions in Ukraine fit the definition of terrorism, and that the world’s largest country should soon find itself among the small list of pariah states.

In May, the two Senators introduced legislation in the Senate for the designation to be applied to Russia. Graham, a long time and ardent critic of the Putin Regime who earlier called for Putin to be “taken out,” was quoted as saying that “Putin is a terrorist, and one of the most disruptive forces on the planet is Putin’s Russia.” Before continuing that “Putin’s Russia deserves this designation. We should be all-in on making sure that Putin’s Russia is marginalized as long as they engage in this behavior. This resolution sends a strong message to Ukraine that we are listening and we agree that Putin runs a nation that is a state sponsor of terrorism.”

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