US states increase financial pressure on Russia because of the war

To ease financial pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine, governors and lawmakers in numerous U.S. states on Monday took action to divert state investment from Russian companies while encouraging private companies to do the same.

The impact of sanctions by US states often pales in comparison to national ones, but state officials said they wanted to show solidarity with Ukraine and are doing what they could to build on the penalties being imposed on Russia by the US government and other Western nations were imposed.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, received a bipartisan standing ovation on Monday when he told representatives he would seek to quickly divest the state’s pension funds from Russian assets.

“I don’t know about you all, but I don’t want even a penny of Georgians’ money to subsidize Vladimir Putin,” Ralston said. “Although our role in international affairs is limited, we make it clear that we stand by those who want to live in peace.”

Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger, who oversees state company registrations, also on Monday urged Georgia-based companies and investors to stop doing business with Russia or other Russia-backed companies.

Some actions were largely symbolic. The governors of Arizona, Pennsylvania and Tennessee ordered their capitals to be illuminated in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. Tim Walz, a Democrat, Gov. of Minnesota, and Mike DeWine, a Republican, Gov. of Ohio, issued a joint statement condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine as co-chairs of the president-appointed board of governors.

Other government measures have potential teeth.

On Monday, the House of Indiana passed legislation barring Russian-controlled corporations and nonprofit organizations from acquiring real estate in Indiana for a year. Now it goes to the Senate.

“Indiana will not be a safe haven for ill-gotten gains from Russia, nor for its oligarchs trying to find financial shelters after Putin’s ruthless incursion into Ukraine,” said Democratic State Representative Ryan Dvorak when proposing the change last week.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order on Sunday barring her state from doing business with Russia. She ordered government agencies to divest funds and assets of companies or institutions that support Russia in its war against Ukraine. The Democratic governor also said New York would welcome Ukrainian refugees, noting that New York is already home to the largest Ukrainian population in the US

Pennsylvania lawmakers said Monday they will introduce legislation that would require state pension funds to withdraw investments linked to the Russian government and its critical supporters. The State Treasury has also begun divesting its minimal holdings in Russia-based companies.

In a memo to fellow senators, Democratic State Senator Sharif Street, Pennsylvania “must use our economic might to ensure Russia faces serious consequences for its flagrant violations of international law and human cooperation.”

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican who is also looking for fellow supporters for the legislation, said state legislators “have a moral obligation to ensure that our public fund investments do not inadvertently support those who engage in an unprovoked.” invasion of their democratically elected neighbors.”

Arkansas lawmakers have tabled proposals that would allow the state’s banks to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and require a boycott of Russian-made goods. A bipartisan group of California lawmakers said Monday they will also introduce legislation to divert public funds from Russian state agencies.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has banned state agencies from doing business with Russian state companies and their subcontractors. Colorado’s $61 billion state pension fund is withdrawing $8 million from a Russian state bank hit by federal sanctions.

Governors in Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington have also ordered a review of whether state funds go to Russian companies or investments that support the Russian government. North Dakota’s State Investment Board was scheduled to hold a special meeting later this week to discuss its investments in Russia, which include bonds issued by the country.

“If our state can put a brick in the wall around Putin, that’s a good thing, and we intend to do everything we can in that regard,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.

Some governors are trying to sever goodwill relations between their home states and those in Russia.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that he is dissolving the decades-old sister state relationship between Maryland and Russia’s Leningrad region following the invasion of Ukraine. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, called on the cities of Norfolk and Roanoke to end their twinning with Russian cities. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, called for an end to sister-state ties with Russia’s Stavrapol Krai region and a strengthening of sister-state ties with Ukraine’s Cherkasy Oblast.

Several states have agreed to provide housing for Ukrainian refugees. The Washington state House of Representatives and Senate have each made changes to their budget proposals, which earmarks $19 million for the provision of services and temporary housing for refugees from Ukraine.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, tweeted over the weekend that he had asked restaurants and retailers to “voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves.”

Officials in Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia — all states that control alcohol sales — have ordered Russian-sourced alcohol removed from store shelves and have one affiliated with pro-Ukrainian movement along with some bars and private companies.

“Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian companies, no matter how small the exchange,” Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said.

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Associated Press writer David A. Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri. Also involved were AP writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Jim Anderson in Denver; Sarah Brumfeld of Silver Spring, Maryland; Michael Catalini of Trenton, NJ; Kim Chandler of Montgomery, Alabama; Bob Christie in Phoenix; Andrew DeMillo of Little Rock, Arkansas; Susan Haigh in Norwich, Connecticut; Kimberlee Kruesi of Nashville; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; Sarah Rankin of Richmond, Virginia; Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vermont; Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Casey Smith in Indianapolis; and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City.

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