Ukrainian President Zelenksyy has asked the Biden administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, two sources familiar with the discussions told NBC News.
Zelenskyy made the request in a recent phone conversation with President Joe Biden, the sources said.
A source familiar with the discussion about designating Russia a state sponsor of Terrorism says it was “a very brief part of the call." Zelenskyy brought it up but there was not a long back and forth about the request.
The request did not carry the same priority as urgent appeals for more weapons and energy sanctions against Russia, the sources added.
The Washington Post first reported the request.
Asked last month if the U.S. would consider designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both left open the possibility.
“We are and we will look at everything,” Blinken said on March 17.
An administration official said the administration is reviewing the state sponsor designation to see if it would be applicable in this case.
Currently, only four countries are on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, North Korea, Syria and Cuba.
The designation triggers some of the most aggressive sanctions the U.S. government could adopt on a country, with restrictions on financial transactions and defense exports and sales, as well as foreign aid.
The Biden administration already has imposed severe financial and other sanctions on Russia, including blocking its access to roughly half of its foreign reserves. It’s not clear how such a designation would impact Russia’s economy.
According to some legal experts, if Biden blacklists Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, any company, individual, or state that wins a court judgment against Russia could demand access to any blocked or frozen assets of the Russian government or Russian oligarchs.
The designation could lift diplomatic immunity on Russian officials, and allow families of alleged terrorist victims to file lawsuits in U.S. courts against Russian officials.
An administration official said, “We have put in place the most unprecedented sanctions and export controls with over 30 countries across four continents. As usual, we're not going to comment on any one specific option but we will continue to consider all options to increase the pressure on Putin.”