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US Senate passes Russia sanctions bill

News Agencies | Updated on: 16 June 2017, 11:46 IST

The U.S. Senate on 15 June passed a bill slapping Russia with new sanctions that also gives Congress the power to review any White House attempts to roll them back.

The Senate approved the bill 98-2, with Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont voting against the measure, reports the CNN.

The bill, which includes both Russian and Iranian sanctions, now heads to the House that still needs to pass it before heading to President Donald Trump.

The measure is widely seen to hit Russia with new sanctions for its interference in the U.S. elections, as well as over Moscow's aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

The bill establishes a review process for Congress to have a say whether the White House eases Russia sanctions. It also establishes new sanctions against those conducting cyber attacks, on behalf of the Russian government as well as supplying arms to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and it allows for sanctions to hit Russia's mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors.

The Russia sanctioning measure was added as an amendment to an Iranian sanctions bill, after a deal was struck between the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees. The Russia amendment was added to the sanctions bill in a 97-2 vote on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this week that he was wary of Congress taking actions that could interfere with the administration's efforts to improve relations with Russia.

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

"We will keep them in place until Moscow fully honors its commitment to resolve the crisis in Ukraine," Sanders said. "We believe the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russia to fulfill its commitments."

The Senate also passed two amendments before approving the bill. The first was a technical change that the sanctions would not apply to NASA and commercial space launches, as Russian rocket engines are used for the American Atlas V and Antares rockets.

The second reaffirmed "the strategic importance of Article 5" in NATO, the principle that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all members of the alliance.


First published: 16 June 2017, 11:46 IST