PA governor urges state lawmakers to further back Ukraine and condemn Russia

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HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) – Gov. Tom Wolf wants state lawmakers to do their part to support Ukrainian refugees and condemn the Russian invasion.

At a Monday news conference, Wolf said he supports a bill from two House Democrats that would send at least $2 million in state funds to pay for refugee resettlement efforts, as well as a House Republican effort to add Russia to a list of countries that Pennsylvania could no longer invest public money in.

Alina Gafarova holds her 1-year-old daughter Zahra inside a tent after fleeing Irpin, Ukraine at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Poland, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.  (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

“The Ukrainian people need our help,” Wolf said. “They need it now. And it’s incumbent on all of us to step up and work together to provide the support they need.”

Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia Iryna Mazur says those measures should be approved quickly.

“Medical and humanitarian interventions are desperately and urgently needed right now,” Mazur said. “It has been through the contributions and support of people like you and through the Commonwealth that the lives of the innocents have been saved.”

The governor added he is open to other solidarity efforts, but has rejected an idea from some Republicans that Pennsylvania should help companies here increase natural gas production in order to further cut off Russia.Wolf says he’d also support sending some of Pennsylvania’s PPE stockpile of masks and gloves to Ukraine.

The commonwealth has so far promised to divest a combined $310 million in Russian-linked assets.

The United Nations estimates at least 406 civilians have been killed in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict so far due to indiscriminate shelling. Around 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled the country.

A couple days after Russia launched its invasion into Ukraine, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff and state Sen. Sharif Street drafted legislation that would require the state Treasury Department and the state’s three public pension funds to divest holdings connected to Russia.

The Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System voted on March 4 to sell off its Russia-related investments.

That move affected roughly $7 million in assets.

The Public School Employees’ Retirement System voted on March 3 to start divesting nearly $300 million directly invested in Russia and Belarus. The state Treasury Department, meanwhile, said it sold off as much of its $2.9 million it had invested in Russian companies as it could.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board also announced it would remove all Russian-made products for the state’s Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores.

There are only two products stocked in stores that will be restricted: Russian Standard and Ustianochka 80-proof vodkas, the PLBC said. About half a dozen special order brands come from Russia, and they will no longer be available.