US moves to toughen Russia sanctions

By bne IntelliNews June 13, 2017

Republican and Democrat leaders in the US Senate have reached agreement on a new draft package of sanctions on Russia amidst allegations about the country’s possible meddling in the 2016 presidential election, media reports said on June 13.

The proposals would require a congressional review process if the executive branch decides to ease the current sanctions on Russia and imposes new sanctions in a number of categories.

The proposed bill affects Russia’s railway, mining, and shipping sector and sectors related to metallurgy, Interfax news agency reported. The proposals also envision assistance for European countries concerned about possible Russian aggression.

The measures will also target entities “conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government” and “supplying weapons to the Assad regime” in Syria, CNN reported.

In addition, the bill prevents the US president from lifting the sanctions without the approval of Congress.

US sanctions were originally imposed on Russia in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea and provision of military support for pro-Russian rebels in East Ukraine. The election of US President Donald Trump prompted speculation that the White Housse could move to ease or completely lift the sanctions, but members of Trump’s administration have increasingly come out behind maintaining the measures.

If passed by the Senate, the bill must still be signed by Trump before becoming law. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he thinks the president will sign the bill after it is voted on, but added that the Senate is ready to override a veto decision, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, Trump is under growing pressure about alleged ties his team had with the Russians prior to the elections last November, which the US  intelligence officials said were affected in his favour by Russian hacking interference.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on June 8, former FBI director James Comey said he believed he had been sacked a month earlier because of the FBI’s investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the elections.

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