Watch CBS News

Bipartisan Group Of MN Lawmakers Pitch Divesting State Pension Funds From Russia After Ukraine Invasion

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- A bipartisan proposal unveiled Thursday would target Russia with economic sanctions to further punish its government for invading Ukraine by prohibiting state investment in the country.

The bill would direct the State Board of Investment over the next several months upon passage to divest Minnesota's state pension funds from Russia, where current holdings are worth $53 million, according to the most recent estimates prior to the attack. It would also codify Gov. Tim Walz's executive order banning state contracts with Russian companies.

"We can't allow a single cent of our state to line the pockets of oligarchs and despots who sanction the murder of innocent citizens," said Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis. "Our budgets and where Minnesota spends our dollars is our morals. It's what we stand for."

The proposal has broad support from Republicans and Democrats, and members of the Ukrainian community in Minnesota. The goal is to move swiftly and pass the bill in the next seven to 10 days, said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.

Luda Anastazievsky, who chairs the Minnesota Ukrainian American Committee, said she worries about her childhood friends and family friends who live in the city Mariupol, where a Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital Wednesday. She hasn't been able to reach them since February 27.

"I want to use my Minnesota nice answer and say 'I'm fine,' but I'm not. Honestly, I can barely function," she said during a news conference at the state capitol Thursday.

Anastazievsky has been a Minnesota school teacher for 30 years, meaning the proposal would impact money for her retirement, but she wholeheartedly supports the effort.

Capitol Divest Russia Presser
(credit: CBS)

"Our state can't provide defense weapons, but it can fight back and defend Ukraine," she said. "As a public employee, I don't want my money to go to Putin to fill his war machine."

Asya Mikhailenko Sturgell, who was born in Kyiv, held back tears reflecting on the horror unfolding in Ukraine, where her elderly grandmother and other family and friends still live.

"Over the last two weeks, my heart keeps breaking for my homeland," she said. "I see this bill as a way the Minnesota Legislature can take responsibility to cut commercial ties with the Russian government and hold them accountable for these horrendous acts of war."

Jordan and the lead author of the Senate bill, Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, said within days after the invasion they began discussing actions the Minnesota legislature could take to respond to Russia's attack.

"This is important for Minnesota to send a message that we stand firmly with Ukraine and strongly condemn the Russian government's actions," Housley said.

Minnesota state law has similar provisions banning investments in Sudan and Iran. Hortman said the State Board of Investment has a fiduciary obligation to recipients of state funds to invest for the highest return possible, regardless of the investment. Legislation like this targeting Russia directs "an action that prioritize morality over economics," she said.

Other states are also looking into severing financial ties with Russia, according to a report from The New York Times.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.