Putin: New sanctions will 'complicate' Russia-US ties

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Senate approval of the bill comes more than five months after US intelligence agencies said Moscow meddled in the 2016 election.

The bill passed 98-2, with Kentucky senator Rand Paul and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders voting against it. Lawmakers had overwhelmingly agreed on Wednesday to attach a batch of Russian Federation sanctions to the Iran bill, after calls from both sides of the aisle to push Kremlin-related sanctions through.

The new Iran restrictions, which impose mandatory sanctions on people involved with the Islamic republic's ballistic missile program and those that transact with them. It sanctions Russian government officials, their relatives and close associates deemed to be responsible for "significant corruption" in Russia and elsewhere, and those who who work for or on behalf of the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, those who invest or support the construction of Russian energy export pipelines, and corrupt government officials who enrich themselves after making deals to privatize state-owned assets. Germany and Austria said the new punitive measures could expose European companies involved in projects in Russian Federation to fines.

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran and Russian Federation, and setting up a mechanism to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the Trump administration was "committed to existing sanctions against Russia" but was "still reviewing the new Russian Federation sanctions amendment".

Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, both Republicans, were the only votes against it - bolsters existing sanctions and would allow Congress to thwart any presidential effort to curtail sanctions without congressional approval. That provision also mandates that Congress approve any easing of sanctions against the Kremlin.

The measure covers new sanctions on Russia's mining, energy, metals, railways and shipping projects as well as punitive actions against Russian cyber threat actors and the country's involvement in weapons delivery to Syrian government.

However, they could not predict if it would come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their summer recess.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson questioned the legislation on Wednesday, urging Congress to ensure that any sanctions package "allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation".

House Republicans are expected to review the Senate-passed sanctions bill in the coming weeks, an aide told Politico. The two dissenting votes were Sen. "I would be very, very surprised if the president vetoes this bill". Regardless, GOP senators believe Trump would sign it, with Sen. Also included in the bill is an amendment strengthening sanctions for Russian officials who support cyberattacks against the US and its allies.

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