A trio of U.S. senators has said on a visit to Georgia that they will work to get Congress to pass tougher sanctions against Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said after arriving in Tbilisi on January 1 that "we hope to make 2017 a year of offense.... It is time to push back against Putin."
"It is time for new sanctions to hit [Putin] hard as an individual, [as well as the Russian] energy...[and] banking sector," he said
Graham is on a two-day visit to NATO-hopeful Georgia with Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona) and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota).
"We will strongly urge our colleagues to enact more meaningful and stronger sanctions against Russia because of their [hacking] attack" on the United States, McCain said, adding that "it's very clear that the evidence is overwhelming that it was Russia [that hacked into Democratic National Committee e-mail accounts]."
The senators visited Khurvaleti, on the boundary with the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia that has been controlled by Russian forces since a brief war in 2008.
"These are very difficult and challenging times," McCain said. "We will continue to do everything we can to support the total independence, freedom, and territorial integrity of the country of Georgia."
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The U.S. senators will also meet with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and President Giorgi Margvelashvili, and opposition leaders, and visit the Georgia-NATO joint training center in Krtsanisi while in Georgia.
Graham said the three senators will return to Congress and tell others "what Russia is up to in the Baltics [and] what they are doing in Ukraine."
The U.S. senators are visiting Georgia following a trip to Ukraine and a three-day tour of the Baltic states.
Speaking on December 31 on the front line in Ukraine's eastern conflict zone, McCain promised continued support for Kyiv in the face of aggression from Moscow.
"I send the message from the American people -- we are with you, your fight is our fight, and we will win together," McCain was quoted as saying by Ukrainian President Poroshenko's press service.
"In 2017, we will defeat the invaders and send them back where they came from. To Vladimir Putin -- you will never defeat the Ukrainian people and deprive them of their independence and freedom," McCain said after a visit to a military base in the southeastern town of Shyrokyne.
With reporting by Reuters