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Two GOP senators share photos of Zelenskyy during call after lawmakers asked not to by Ukraine

Senators and House members on a call with the Ukrainian president were asked to not tweet or post pictures of the call while it was in progress, multiple aides told NBC News.
Marco Rubio and Steve Daines
Marco Rubio and Steve Daines.Joe Raedle/Getty Images and Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two Republican senators are facing criticism after tweeting photos of a video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy even though participating lawmakers were told to not share pictures on social media while it was in progress.

Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Steve Daines of Montana posted pictures of Zelenskyy on their Twitter accounts during the Zoom meeting Saturday morning, writing that they were on a call with him.

Democratic Reps. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Jason Crow of Colorado criticized the senators on Twitter.

Phillips said that the "Ukrainian ambassador very intentionally asked each of us on the Zoom to NOT share anything on social media during the meeting to protect the security of President Zelenskyy."

"Appalling and reckless ignorance by two U.S. Senators," Phillips wrote.

"The lack of discipline in Congress is truly astounding," Crow wrote. "If an embattled wartime leader asks you to keep quiet about a meeting, you better keep quiet about the meeting. I’m not saying a damn thing. Lives are at stake."

Members were explicitly asked not to tweet or post pictures of the call while it was in progress, multiple aides told NBC News. The embassy coordinated this with the offices of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, said a Democratic leadership aide.

In separate statements, representatives for Rubio and Daines defended the senators' decision to share the photos.

"There were over 160 members of Congress on a widely reported Zoom call. There was no identifying information of any kind. Anybody pretending this tweet is a security concern is a partisan seeking clicks," said a spokesperson for Rubio.

A spokesperson for Daines said his tweet, which was posted about 23 minutes after the meeting started, was "shared well into the call ... before it was requested not to" and contained "no identifying information."

"We should be focusing on what’s important here and that’s supporting Ukraine," added Daines' spokesperson.

Zelenskyy addressed more than 280 senators, House members and staff during the virtual meeting, which, according to an office that helped organize the call, lasted just under an hour and concluded at around 10:25 a.m. ET.

Earlier on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that any move to create a no-fly zone above Ukraine would be viewed as “participation” in the conflict. During the call, Zelenskyy asked if a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace could be imposed on Russian-made aircraft, multiple people on the call told NBC News.

Schumer told Zelenskyy that Congress will get the $10 billion in economic, humanitarian and security assistance to the Ukrainian people "quickly,” according to two people with knowledge of the call.

Zelenskyy spoke on the call first, followed by Schumer and McConnell, then Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the co-chairs of the Senate Ukraine caucus, said two people with knowledge of the call.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asked about the possibility of a ban on Russian oil imports, and Zelenskyy stressed the importance of energy sanctions, according to two people on the call. The Ukrainian leader also spoke to lawmakers about imposing sanctions to stop Russia from using Visa and Mastercard, said three people on the call. Earlier this week, Visa and Mastercard blocked some Russian financial institutions from their networks but not all.

Several lawmakers in both parties also shared pictures and details of the call on social media after it concluded, including Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn.

Himes tweeted that Zelenskyy "is standing strong, but pleaded for more help. Planes, oil embargo, continued military aid," adding that, "We were asked to not post during the zoom. This was posted well afterwards."

“President Zelenskyy made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine. These planes are very much needed. And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer," Schumer said in a statement.

CORRECTION (March 5, 2022, 10:05 p.m. E.T.): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of a Connecticut congressman. He’s Jim Himes, not Jim Hines.