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A bipartisan block of U.S. senators gathered in Ukraine on Saturday to show solidarity with the beleaguered country while taking aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"There's one person I hold accountable for this aggression — that's Vladimir Putin," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said at a news conference in Kiev joined by seven other senators. "There's one person who can stop it, and that's Vladimir Putin."
The senators said they wanted to show their "commitment" to Ukraine, which is under a new pro-western government, as Russia's grip over the Crimean Peninsula tightens. Voters in Crimea will decide Sunday whether they want to join the Russian Federation, although the U.S. and its allies already say they won't accept the results.
"Ukraine's journey will be difficult, but Ukrainians will not make that journey alone," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said at Saturday's news conference. "The United States and other partners will be with you."
McCain said aid toward Ukraine will include strengthening democracy, reforming the economy and putting heavy sanctions on Russia.
But many senators took shots at Putin, blaming him for stoking tensions over Crimea, where there's a large ethnic Russian population.
"Ukraine's new day is shadowed by menace," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. "Russia's conduct is already outside the conduct of a civilized nation."
In the future, McCain said he believes Ukraine is going to need long-term military assistance with equipment that is both lethal and nonlethal.
But, he added, he doesn't think there will be a "reigniting" of another cold war.