Senators are looking at options such as imposing sanctions on
Russia's banks and freezing assets of Russian public institutions
and private investors, Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the
Senate's Europe subcommittee, told Reuters.
But he said in a telephone interview that European governments also
needed to act.
"Unilateral U.S. sanctions against Russia are not going to have much
of an effect if Europe remains a haven for Russian banks and Russian
oligarchs to stash and invest their money," the Connecticut Democrat
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was "deeply concerned"
about what is happening in Ukraine. Noting that President Barack
Obama has said he wanted to provide economic aid to Kiev, Reid said
he was "happy to help in any way."
But the Nevada Democrat told reporters at the U.S. Capitol: "I'm
going to recommend that anything that we do be in conjunction with
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
are preparing legislation — supported by members of both parties — to provide at least $1 billion in loan guarantees to provide
structural support to Ukraine's economy.
The measure would also authorize technical assistance for energy
reforms, support elections, strengthen civil society, combat
corruption and help Ukraine recover stolen assets, Democratic
Senator Robert Menendez, the committee's chairman, said in a
The committee is also consulting with the Obama administration on
possible actions against individual Russians — and Ukrainians who
cooperated with them — ranging from visa bans and asset freezes to
suspending military cooperation and sales, as well as economic
[to top of second column]
Republican U.S. Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House of
Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, also said Washington
needed to act with the Europeans to pressure Moscow via its
state-run banks or through trade.
"The Achilles heel for Russia is their economy, the rouble," Royce
said on CNN.
European Union ministers held talks on the Ukraine crisis on Monday,
but agreed on no deadlines or details about any punitive measures
that could be put in place against Russia.
Republican Senator John McCain, one of his party's leading foreign
policy voices, said he felt German Chancellor Angela Merkel in
particular had been too timid.
Merkel and her 3-month-old coalition government have gone out of
their way to avoid antagonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin,
remaining measured even as Washington and other capitals ratcheted
up the rhetoric. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas
and is closer to Moscow than any other leading Western nation.
"I was very disappointed in her comments," McCain said of Merkel.
"And, by the way, maybe Putin also, who knows Angela Merkel, thinks
that he can get away with this."
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Bill Trott and Peter
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