The Russian Foreign Ministry says U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Chris Murphy, who claim that Russia has denied them visas, “knew well” they were on a list of officials barred from the country.
Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists on August 28 that the list was established in response to the United States' "unfounded restrictions against a significant number of members of the Federation Council," Russia's upper house of parliament.
Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut) and Johnson (Republican-Wisconsin), who are strong Kremlin critics, earlier this week said Russia had denied them visas to visit the country as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation.
A Senate staffer told CNN that their trip was part of an itinerary next week that includes stops in Kosovo, Serbia, and Ukraine.
In a post on his website on August 27, Murphy, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Russia’s move a “shame that Russia isn’t interested in dialogue” at a "potentially a perilous moment for our two nations’ fragile relationship."
The previous day, Johnson said in a statement that "the path [President] Vladimir Putin has chosen for Russia is a tragedy of historic proportions."
The Russian Embassy in Washington called Johnson "Russophobic" and said he “did not apply for a visa at our embassy and did not inform about his plans to visit Russia."
In a statement posted on Twitter, the embassy said the U.S. senator's "groundless accusations against Russia leave no doubt -- he is ready not for a dialogue, but a confrontation."
It later said that the comments also “can be fully applied” to Murphy.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been severely strained over a variety of issues including Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, its alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election, and its involvement in Syria's civil war.