Congress readies new sanctions on Russia
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[December 13, 2014]
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers were
expected on Friday to approve new sanctions on Russian weapons companies
and investors in the country's high-tech oil projects, putting more U.S.
pressure on President Vladimir Putin for interference in eastern
Late on Thursday, the Senate and House of Representatives
unanimously passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. A House panel
made a small change and sent the bill back to the Senate for a last
vote expected as soon as late Friday.
President Barack Obama has said he opposes further sanctions on
Russia unless Europe is on board.
The bill, which will be sent to Obama to sign, requires him to apply
sanctions on Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport and
other defense companies Congress says contribute to instability in
Ukraine, Georgia and Syria.
It requires Obama to penalize global companies that make large
investments in crude oil drilling projects in deep waters and the
The penalties go beyond U.S. and EU sanctions imposed in September
on the world's largest oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp and BP
The legislation would also provide $350 million in military
assistance to Ukraine from 2015 to 2017, and other aid for energy to
the country, which has been threatened by cutoffs in natural gas
supply from Russia.
Republicans, who control the House and will have a majority in the
Senate from January, have criticized Obama's reaction to Russian
interference in Ukraine as inadequate.
"The hesitant U.S. response to Russia's continued invasion of
Ukraine threatens to escalate this conflict even further," said
Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, incoming chairman of the
foreign relations committee.
The unanimous support for the bill showed a "firm commitment to
Ukrainian sovereignty and to making sure Putin pays for his assault
on freedom and security in Europe," said Corker, who co-authored the
bill with Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the current head of
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The bill authorizes Obama to penalize the top Russian natural gas
producer Gazprom if he determines it is withholding significant
natural gas supplies from NATO members or from Ukraine, Georgia and
Moldova. Lawmakers dropped a measure that would have designated
Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova as non-NATO allies of Washington.
Obama on Thursday said slapping fresh sanctions on Russia without a
similar move by Europe would be counterproductive.
In Kiev on Friday, Ukraine's defense minister called for a doubling
of the military budget to buy weapons abroad and better equip the
army to fight Russian-backed separatists in the east.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by David Gregorio)
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