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Politics & Government

Ukrainians urge Idaho legislature to act on Russian investments

A view from the gallery of the Idaho Senate with senators standing around the room.
Samantha Wright
Boise State Public Radio
An undated file photo showing the floor of the Idaho Senate.

The Senate State Affairs Committee heard emotional testimony Monday as it considered proposals to divest Russian assets held in state investment funds.

Julia Martin is one of three Ukrainians who shared their family’s experiences during the Russian invasion of their country.

“This is a genocide they’re doing – the Russians doing genocide. This is not a war. They’re killing civilian people who trying to just escape for shelter,” Martin said.

Nearly 600 civilians have died in Ukraine over the past three weeks, according to NPR.

Her cousin, Martin said, is a combat medic treating injured soldiers and civilians alike in horrific situations.

“It’s not a movie,” she said. “It’s our life.”

Committee members quickly approved a resolution urging Idaho’s Endowment Fund Investment Board, which oversees investments related to the state’s endowment lands, to purge its Russian-related assets. But they held a bill that would require the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) to do the same due to technical reasons.

Last week, PERSI said it held about $8.4 million in Russian assets, including currency, bonds and interests in a petroleum company.

It’s already moved to dump those investments, but some of those decisions are out of its control. Specifically, Russia has blocked the trading of its bonds, and some of the state’s investments are tied up in index funds managed by an outside brokerage firm.

In holding the bill, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee (R-Fruitland) said she doesn’t want to promise something lawmakers can’t deliver on.

“I want to make sure that whatever we do and say we’re doing that we functionally can do it, that we’re not just putting our fists in the air,” Lee said.

“We stand opposed to what is happening in Ukraine and we stand with the Ukrainian people and I hope that you have seen that through this legislature,” she said.

Still, Martin called for more action.

“We’re not talking here about finances, we’re talking about lives – little, innocent people lives. Those kids doesn’t have to die,” she said.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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