ST. PAUL, Minnesota (WCCO) – A bipartisan proposal unveiled Thursday would target Russia with economic sanctions to further punish its government for invading Ukraine by banning public investment in the country.
The bill would direct the State Board of Investment over the next few months to divest Minnesota state pension funds to Russia, where current holdings are worth $53 million, according to the most recent estimates before the offensive. It would also codify Governor Tim Walz’s executive order banning state contracts with Russian companies.
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“We cannot allow a single penny of our state to line the pockets of oligarchs and despots who sanction the murder of innocent citizens,” said Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis. “Our budgets and where Minnesota spends our dollars is our morality. That’s what we stand for.
The proposal has broad support from Republicans and Democrats, as well as members of Minnesota’s Ukrainian community. The goal is to act quickly and pass the bill within the next seven to 10 days, said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
Luda Anastazievsky, who chairs the Ukrainian American Committee in Minnesota, said she is worried about her childhood friends and family friends who live in the town of Mariupol, where a Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital on Wednesday . She has not been able to reach them since February 27.
“I want to use my beautiful Minnesota response and say ‘I’m fine,’ but I’m not. Honestly, I can barely function,” she said at a press conference at the state Capitol on Thursday.
Anastazievsky has been a teacher in Minnesota for 30 years, which means the proposal would impact her retirement money, but she wholeheartedly supports the effort.
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“Our state cannot provide defense weapons, but it can fight back and defend Ukraine,” she said. “As a civil servant, I don’t want my money to go to Putin to fuel his war machine.”
Kyiv-born Asya Mikhailenko Sturgell held back tears as she reflected on the horror unfolding in Ukraine, where her elderly grandmother and other family members and friends still live.
“Over the past two weeks, my heart has never stopped breaking for my homeland,” she said. “I see this bill as a way for the Minnesota Legislature to take responsibility for cutting commercial ties with the Russian government and holding it accountable for these horrific acts of war.”
Jordan and the Senate bill’s lead author, Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, said days after the invasion they began discussing what steps the Minnesota legislature could take to respond to the attack from Russia.
“It’s important for Minnesota to send the message that we strongly support Ukraine and strongly condemn the actions of the Russian government,” Housley said.
Minnesota state law contains similar provisions prohibiting investment in Sudan and Iran. Hortman said the State Board of Investment has a fiduciary duty to recipients of public funds to invest for the highest return possible, regardless of the investment. Legislation like this targeting Russia directs “action that prioritizes morality over economics,” she said.
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Other states are also considering severing financial ties with Russia, according to a New York Times report.