American senators reach deal on Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON • Moscow has expressed displeasure after United States senators reached an agreement on legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia, including a provision that would prevent the White House from ending sanctions without congressional approval.

Monday's agreement, to be filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions Bill, is intended to punish Russia over issues including its alleged meddling in the US election last year, annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for the government of Syria in that country's six-year civil war. The Bill on Iran is due to come up for a vote as soon as this week.

Besides the provision setting up a process for Congress to review changes in sanctions, the measure would put into law sanctions previously established via presidential executive orders, including some on certain Russian energy projects as well as debt financing in some industries.

It would impose new sanctions on Russians found to be guilty of human rights abuses, supplying weapons to Syria's government and conducting cyber attacks on behalf of Russia's government, among others.

The measure also would allow new sanctions on Russian mining, metals, shipping and railway sectors.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters yesterday that Russia took a negative view of the wider sanctions against his country.

The legislation is backed by both Republicans and Democrats, and is expected to easily pass the Senate.

The deal came less than 24 hours before Attorney-General Jeff Sessions was slated to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with Russian envoys during last year's presidential election campaign which Russia allegedly sought to influence to help elect Mr Donald Trump.

It was the latest sign that some lawmakers intend to push back against Mr Trump's efforts to improve relations with Moscow.

The legislation would have to pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Trump. If Mr Trump objects, some of the measure's backers said they expected enough congressional support to override a veto.

"By codifying existing sanctions and requiring congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish" Russian President Vladimir Putin "for his reckless and destabilising actions", Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'American senators reach deal on Russia sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe