FL leaders react to Russian invasion: ‘Freedom is under attack in Ukraine’

‘Florida must today send an unambiguous message to Vladimir Putin’

By: - February 24, 2022 1:20 pm

Cars wait to cross into Romania, at the border crossing, on Feb. 24, 2022, in Solotvyno, Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion of that country. Credit: Andreea Campeanu/Getty Images

Florida’s political leaders condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, although there was no immediate comment from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio used his Twitter feed to describe developments in Ukraine.

“#Russia’s invasion has already taken longer & been costlier than #Putin expected. Almost certain his military & intel leaders knew this ahead of time but no one dared tell him his expectations were unrealistic,” he wrote at late morning.

Rubio, a Republican who sits on the Senate committees on intelligence and foreign relations, described Russian attacks on cities close to Ukraine’s borders with NATO member countries and warned: “Just one mistake, miscalculation, or misunderstanding could set off a broader & catastrophic conflict.”

He added: “#Russia is carrying out deliberate strikes on civilian targets. The purpose is to demoralize the population & diminish the will to resist.”

Meanwhile, fellow Republican Rick Scott, Florida’s junior senator, had this remark on Twitter: “Freedom is under attack in Ukraine. Pray for the innocent lives in danger.” He sits on the Committee on Homeland Security.

As for DeSantis, as of early afternoon he hadn’t appeared to have commented, either through his communications office or on social media.

However, on Feb. 9, DeSantis told Fox News he welcomed the Pentagon’s withdrawal of members of the Florida National Guard from Ukraine, where they had been training local troops.

“That would have been Joe Biden’s doing, not ours. You know my view is I don’t want to see American troops in Ukraine. I think that we have a lot of problems here in the United States,” the governor said. “We’ve given Ukraine a lot of support over the years under the Trump administration, we provided huge amounts of lethal aid, and so I think that they’ve been equipped to defend themselves, but to put American troops in the midst of that is not something that I want to see, particularly with Floridians.”

Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, a Democrat seeking her party’s nomination to challenge the governor this fall, argued on Twitter that it was important for state leaders to speak up.

“Florida must today send an unambiguous message to Vladimir Putin, that the democracy-loving people of Florida condemn this act of war. We do not respect him. We do not fear him. We oppose all aggression against democracy anywhere,” she wrote.

“We should send this message, hopefully, through bipartisan Cabinet and Legislative resolutions,” she continued.

“Some may not think this is important work for elected officials in Florida, but it is. Because if you respect or bow to Putin, then that sends a message to Maduro, Ortega, or Castro and Díaz-Canel, and any other authoritarian government or dictator Floridians have fled.”

Charlie Crist, the Democratic congressman from Pinellas County who’s also seeking his party’s gubernatorial nomination, issued a written statement:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is a murderous dictator who has invaded a sovereign democracy in an effort to recreate the glory days of the USSR. This is an unprovoked war of his choosing, it will cause tremendous loss of life, destruction, and suffering,” he said.

“This aggression will be met with harsh, punishing sanctions designed to cripple the Russian economy. Bullies like Putin only respect power. The U.S., European Union, and our allies will meet these transgressions with fierce, unyielding pressure, as we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and her people.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who’s seeking her party’s nomination to take on Rubio in the general election, also commented on Twitter.

“The people of Ukraine are in crisis and innocent people are dying due to the actions of one unhinged and unprincipled man,” she wrote.

“I am praying for Ukraine but thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must give them arms and humanitarian assistance and hold Russia accountable through historic, unprecedented sanctions.”

Demings warned that gas prices are spiking. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause major harm to Florida families at the pump. We need to hold international producers and big corporations responsible as they continue to see massive profits while families struggle to make ends meet.”

Note: This story has been updated to include DeSantis remarks from early February.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.