US left-wing lawmakers pull letter urging Russia negotiations
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Left-wing US lawmakers on Tuesday withdrew a letter that appealed to President Joe Biden to negotiate with Russia, saying they were not joining Republicans who question support for Ukraine.
Days before congressional elections, Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, took responsibility and said that staff released the letter Monday that had been drafted months ago and was not vetted.
She regretted that the letter was being "conflated" with recent remarks by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy who warned there would be no "blank check" to Ukraine if his party wins control of the chamber on November 8.
"The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats... are somehow aligned with Republicans who seek to pull the plug on American support for President (Volodymyr) Zelensky," Jayapal said in a statement.
"Nothing could be further from the truth. Every war ends with diplomacy, and this one will too after Ukrainian victory," she said.
The original letter, signed by 30 Democrats, urged the Biden administration to negotiate directly with Russia, saying that funding for weapons created a "responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues."
The appeal held out the possibility of sanctions relief for Russia and a potential new European security framework with guarantees for all sides.
Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February demanding that the former Soviet republic never be allowed to join NATO, a stance that US officials saw as a red herring as Kyiv was unlikely to enter the alliance anytime soon.
The Biden administration says that Russia is not serious about diplomacy, unleashing a slew of devastating attacks on Ukraine including on civilian infrastructure.
The letter on Monday triggered defensiveness among some Democrats who had signed it, with some questioning the timing.
Representative Mark Takano, one of the signatories, released his own statement vowing to back continued funding "to aid Ukrainian self-determination and ensure the people of Ukraine have the tools they need to protect their hard-won democracy."
Lawmakers across party lines backed a $40 billion package for Ukraine in May, with the limited opposition coming mostly from hard-right Republicans close to former president Donald Trump, who in the past has professed admiration for Putin.