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Menendez on Reports of Russian Oligarch’s Involvement in Attack on U.S. Forces in Syria

Calls on Pres. Trump to convene a National Security Council meeting and consult with Congress on what actions the Administration is taking to ensure the security of U.S. forces in Syria.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement after a Washington Post reported Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian Oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, was in direct contact with the Assad regime before and after an attack on U.S. forces in Syria earlier this month.

“If true, reports that the Trump Administration has intercepted communications between Russian oligarch and Putin crony Yevgeniy Prigozhin and the Assad regime should be the nail in the coffin of this Administration’s fantasy rapprochement strategy with President Putin.”   

“Last week, Special Counsel Mueller indicted Prigozhin for his role in the attack on American democracy.  Today we learn of evidence that this same individual shares responsibility for a direct attack on American troops in Syria.”

“The U.S. military has worked for years to ‘deconflict’ its operations with Russia in Syria, though the Russian military has consistently demonstrated that it lacks the professionalism and credibility to be treated as an effective battlefield counterpart.”

“The Trump Administration’s approach to Russia has consistently and effectively ceded leadership in Syria, the Middle East and the international community to the Kremlin.  The administration’s efforts have failed to deliver effective ceasefires or save lives, and instead has facilitated Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, directly threatening Israel.”

“While Trump seeks every opportunity to align with Putin, Russian activities in Syria have facilitated the bombing, starving and torturing of Syrian civilians; Assad’s chemical weapons attacks; increased Iranian presence close to the Israeli border and, finally, an attack on our men and women in uniform. Russia has also effectively obstructed meaningful action on the worsening crisis in the United Nations Security Council.”

“President Trump must immediately convene a meeting of the National Security Council and consult with Congress on what actions the Administration is taking to ensure the security of U.S. forces in Syria.”

“As I stated earlier this week, the President must face the facts:  Russia is not a partner in Syria.  Putin’s oligarchs are running an army of mercenaries in Syria that are complicit in war crimes and attacking U.S. forces.”