Two Republican senators were slammed for risking the security of Volodymyr Zelensky after posting photos during a live video call between US lawmakers and the Ukrainian president on Saturday – after the politicians were expressly warned to refrain from sharing information that could jeopardize his safety.
Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Steve Daines of Montana posted pictures of Zelensky on their respective Twitter accounts while the Zoom meeting was in progress.
Zelensky, who has bravely stayed in Kyiv as Vladimir Putin’s forces move toward the capital and bombard many other Ukrainian cities, has survived three assassination attempts by mercenaries of the Kremlin-backed Wagner group and Chechen special forces, according to The Sunday Times.
The 280-plus senators, House members and staff that tuned in to the virtual meeting, which ended around 10:25am EST, were explicitly asked not to tweet or post pictures of the call while it was in progress, multiple aides told NBC News.
‘[The] Ukrainian ambassador very intentionally asked each of us on the Zoom to NOT share anything on social media during the meeting to protect the security of President Zelensky,’ Representatives Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted.
‘Appalling and reckless ignorance by two US senators.’
Both Senator Marco Rubio of Florida (R) (tweet pictured left) and Senator Steve Daines of Montana (R) (tweet pictured right) posted images of a Zoom call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday morning, although they were specifically told not to do so until the meeting had concluded for security reasons
Florida Senator Marco Rubio (left) and Montana Senator Steve Daines (left) posted photos from conference with Ukraine’s president
The 280-plus senators, House members and staff that tuned in to the virtual meeting (pictured), which ended around 10:25am EST
Democratic representatives, including Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes (tweet pictured) posted images from the Zoom call – but did so after the meeting had ended
The Ukrainian president (pictured on the front lines) has admitted he knows he’s Russia’s biggest target. The Wagner Group – which has 400 personnel in Kyiv alone – and the Chechen attempted to kill him in the last week
Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado, also lashed out at the Republican senators for sharing screenshots of the call.
‘The lack of discipline in Congress is truly astounding,’ he tweeted.
‘If an embattled wartime leader asks you to keep quiet about a meeting, you better keep quiet about the meeting. I’m not saying a damn thing. Lives are at stake.’
The call was coordinated with the offices of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) of New York and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, along with the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, a Democratic leadership aide told the outlet.
Democratic Representatives Dean Phillips of Minnesota called Rubio and Daines’ tweets ‘appalling and reckless’
Democratic Representative James Crow of Colorado lashed out against the two Republican senators on Twitter
Rubio and Daines defended theirs decisions to share the photos, both calling the outcry ‘partisan.’
‘There were over 160 members of Congress on a widely reported Zoom call,’ said a spokesperson for Rubio in a statement. ‘There was no identifying information of any kind.’
A spokesperson for Daines said that his tweet, which was posted about 23 minutes into the hour-long Zoom meeting, was ‘shared well into the call… before it was requested not to’ and contained ‘no identifying information.’
‘We should be focusing on what’s important here and that’s supporting Ukraine,’ Daines’ spokesperson added.
Several Democratic representatives, including Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes, also posted images from the call – however, they waited until the meeting had concluded.
Since the conflict began on February 24, Zelensky (pictured) has posted videos to his official Instagram account, directly appealing to the world for supplies and assistance
A flood of comments from Twitter users, like the one above, demandedthat the social media platform take down the senators’ tweets
Himes tweeted that Zelensky ‘is standing strong, but pleaded for more help. Planes, oil embargo, continued military aid,’ adding that, ‘We were asked to not post during the zoom. This was posted well afterwards.’
Republicans called out the senators, too, with former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele taking to Twitter to condemn Rubio specifically.
‘Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? You are the Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and a Member of the Foreign Relations Committee,’ Steele wrote.
‘You were specifically asked NOT to share this briefing with Zelensky. Why would you risk his safety for a tweet?’
A flood of comments from Twitter users demanding that the social media platform take down the senators’ tweets caused Rubio to trend on Saturday afternoon.
During the call, Zelensky asked for a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace to be imposed on Russian-made aircraft, multiple sources told NBC. Earlier on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that any move to create such a no-fly zone would be viewed as ‘participation’ in the conflict.
Schumer reportedly told Zelensky that Congress will get $10 billion in economic, humanitarian and security assistance for the Ukrainian people ‘quickly.’
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia (D) asked about the possibility of a ban on Russian oil, a move that was hinted at on Friday by Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Zelensky also asked about imposing sanctions to stop Russia from using Visa and Mastercard. The two companies blocked some Russian financial services from using their networks earlier this week, but not all.
Republicans called out the senators, too, with former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele taking to Twitter to condemn their actions
Around 6 pm EST on Saturday, hours after the Zoom meeting with US representatives, Zelensky posted a video of another meeting with Elon Musk (pictured) that appeared to be filmed at the same location
Since the conflict began on February 24, Zelensky has posted videos to his official Instagram account, directly appealing to the world for supplies and assistance, and has been photographed in military garb on the front lines by Reuters and other outlets.
Around 6 pm EST on Saturday, hours after the Zoom meeting with US representatives, Zelensky posted a video of another meeting with Elon Musk that appeared to be filmed at the same location.
‘Talked to Elon Musk,’ Zelensky wrote in Ukrainian. ‘He thanked Ukraine for its support in words and deeds. Next week we will receive another batch of Starlink systems for destroyed cities.’
‘They also talked about possible space projects and a visit to Ukraine. But about this – after the war.’
Musk, 50, sent a collection of antennas to Ukraine this week after their president voiced concern that Ukrainians could lose internet access if Russia continues to attack communications towers, as it did with the bombing of a Kyiv TV tower on Wednesday.