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Durbin: Russian attacks in Ukraine show Putin’s ruthlessness

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, spoke to reporters about the U.S. response to Russia's war in Ukraine during a virtual news conference Friday morning.

Sen. Dick Durbin says he was moved by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plea to a joint session of Congress this week seeking additional military aid as his country defends itself from Russia's invasion.

During a virtual news conference Friday morning, Durbin, D-Ill., said images of Ukrainian children killed in recent attacks shown in a video during Zelenskyy's address will stay in his mind forever.

“That just shows you the level of ruthlessness by Vladimir Putin,” said Durbin, calling the Russian actions “barbaric” while saluting the Ukrainian people for their courage and resilience.

“How is this going to end? I don't know,” he said. “We pray every single day that it comes to a conclusion; I hope diplomatic efforts are successful. But in the meantime, we've got to keep NATO unified. We've got to keep the Ukrainian people fortified. We have to stand behind them.”

Durbin said he is “fully supportive” of President Joe Biden sending an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine. But he noted Zelenskyy's request for Polish fighter jets and the creation of a no-fly zone must be approached carefully by NATO to avoid an escalation of the war.

“As long as NATO is strong and as long as NATO stands behind Ukraine, Ukraine has a fighting chance to win this battle against overwhelming odds,” he said.

Gas prices

Durbin said he’s open to the idea of a short-term pause of taxes on gasoline as prices at the pump have remained high since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“A lot of states are suspending their state gasoline taxes, and there is an effort to do that on a federal basis,” he said. “Although that's only — I underline ‘only’ — 18 cents a gallon, I am open to the suggestion of temporarily — underline that word ‘temporarily’ — suspending that gas tax.”

As of Thursday, the national average price for a gallon of unleaded gas was $4.29, down slightly from last week's record high of $4.33. Oil prices edged above $100 a barrel on Friday but remained set for a second straight weekly loss.

Durbin said that should translate to lower prices at the pumps, but hasn't yet. He said oil companies need to be held accountable if they are keeping gas prices high artificially for increased profitability.

“Shouldn't we see that at the pump if there's real supply and demand (issues)? This notion that they can gouge with their prices or take profits at this moment in history is unacceptable,” he said. “It's unfair to the American people who are already facing inflation at many levels.”

Durbin said a bipartisan group of lawmakers has urged the Biden Administration to consider allowing use of cheaper winter gasoline blends during the summer months to help lower the prices.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.