After nearly five months of war in Ukraine, Congress is looking for ways to increase pressure on Russia and exact a steeper cost for its aggression. One way is by designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainians.

On Thursday, Politico reported that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism (SST) or Congress will act to do so without his department. At a press conference following the report, Pelosi called the potential designation "long overdue" because of Russia's violence aimed at civilians and alleged war crimes.

“I’ve been advocating it for four months, at least," Pelosi told reporters. “These are not just the soldiers raping girls; this is an order — an attempt to demoralize the Ukrainian people."

Pelosi’s request follows earlier calls from Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress to take this action.

In May, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced a bill that laid out the Senate's view that Russia is engaging in terrorism against Ukraine though stopped short of forcing a designation. A similar bipartisan resolution emerged from within Pelosi's ranks in the House that ramped up pressure on the Biden administration to slap an SST designation on Russia.

Renewed congressional pressure comes one day after Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska delivered a speech before Congress where she called for more support against Russia.

"Help us to stop this terror against Ukrainians," she said.

Under U.S. law, the State Department is responsible for issuing SST designations to other countries, which to date has only been applied to four countries: Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria. After being labeled an SST, a state can become subject to allow for a stricter series of international sanctions and open these states up to lawsuits followed by victims of the SST's actions.

But applying this designation to Russia carries more complications than previous designees. Russia is already subject to more sanctions than any other country, but it also remains far more economically integrated to the global economy through its still vast oil supplies and commodity exports.

An SST designation may also invite economic retaliation that may further rattle U.S. allies in Europe or developing countries that have not joined sanctions on Russia. This would only add to the pressures on a global economy that may be veering towards a worldwide recession.

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