Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks at a Washington news conference on Feb. 15, 2018. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is at right. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

ORONO, Maine — Maine’s two U.S. senators denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Friday, suggesting President Joe Biden and the international community seek harsher sanctions while the conflict escalates.

Russia ramped up its assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv late Thursday night, while U.N. officials reported 25 civilian deaths as of Friday, citing shelling and airstrikes. The U.S. and its allies announced further sanctions on Russian leader Vladimir Putin and other top government officials Friday after measures so far have failed to stop Russia’s aggression.

Speaking to reporters Friday after an event at the University of Maine in Orono, Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, decried “pretexts” used by Putin to justify the invasion. Putin earlier this week called for the “denazification” of Ukraine, which many in the saw as an indicator he is looking to overthrow President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“To declare the president of Ukraine — who is Jewish — is a Nazi is just beyond the pale in every possible way, and innocent people are being sacrificed to Vladimir Putin’s dream of a greater Russia,” King said.

King said he suspected more serious sanctions would be imposed in the next few days. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said she hoped the Biden administration would work with Congress to impose “the harshest possible sanctions” on Russia and Putin. The Senate is expected to reconvene next week after lawmakers failed to pass sanctions this month.

Collins pointed to the potential for further financial sanctions, including working with allies to deny Russia access to a global financial system known as SWIFT. It would make it harder for Russian entities to conduct international transactions, severely limiting imports and exports, but countries that rely on Russia’s energy exports have balked at such a move.

Severely limiting Russia’s ability to conduct business could have “real impact,” Collins said, noting the importance of energy exports for its economy.

“To me, Putin’s aggression, his violating the sovreignty of a democracy, his willingness to murder innocent people calls for the greatest possible sanctions,” she said.