A Republican congresswoman who was born in Ukraine harshly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday for his increasingly brutal invasion of her home country.
“This is not a war,” Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., said during a news conference hosted by GOP leadership on Capitol Hill. “This is genocide of the Ukrainian people by a crazy man.”
Putin, she said, “cannot get over” the idea that the Ukrainian people want a democracy like the United States and do not want to be a part of his authoritarian regime.
“They want to be free people. They want to be with the West,” she said.
According to the latest estimate by the United Nations, more than 660,000 people have fled Ukraine since Thursday, when Putin’s attack on the sovereign nation began. That number is expected to grow sharply as Russian bombs increasingly strike civilian areas and Russian troops assault Ukraine’s largest cities.
Spartz said her 95-year-old grandmother is still in Ukraine as its citizens take up arms to defend themselves from Russia’s onslaught.
“They are bombing civilians nonstop, day and night,” Spartz said. “They are leveling cities to the ground.”
She said her grandmother’s daughter was in a village that Russian forces attacked.
“They came into [the] village with heavy machine guns, killed almost every person,” Spartz said. “And whatever people were left, women and children, they forced them to walk in front of the tanks as human shields."
Spartz immigrated to the United States in 2000 and became an American citizen in 2006. In 2020, she became the first Ukrainian-born person to be elected to Congress.
Spartz said family members who remain in Ukraine are not afraid of fighting but want guns so they don’t have to bring “sticks” to battle.
She also criticized President Biden, calling on him to give an even more aggressive response to the Kremlin’s attack on its smaller neighbor.
“We have a president that talks about, talks about, and doesn’t do things,” Spartz said. “What is he going to do, wait until millions die? Then he’s going to do more? I mean, we have not just a moral duty, we are the leaders of the free world.”
The United States, along with its NATO and European Union allies, has levied sanctions against Russia and sent troops to the region. But Biden has pledged not to put U.S. forces in harm’s way.
“If we don’t stop him there,” Spartz said of Putin’s assault on Ukraine, “he is not going to stop. He is going to go further. And then we’ll have to send our children to die to fight this.”