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US bill proposes tough sanctions on Russia

13 March 2014, 06:59

Washington - Congress will weigh some of the most significant US sanctions on Russia since the end of the Cold War in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin to pull Russian troops out of Crimea, according to a copy of a new Senate bill obtained by The Associated Press.

The legislation authorises the Obama administration to impose economic penalties on Russian officials complicit in Ukrainian corruption or anyone responsible for Moscow's military takeover of Ukraine. It would also target Russians complicit in corruption.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans a vote on Wednesday afternoon. The timing coincides with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's visit to Washington and his planned meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.

"Putin has miscalculated by playing a game of Russian roulette with the international community, but we refuse to blink, and will never accept this violation of international law," said Senator Bob Menendez, the Democrat chairperson of the Foreign Relations panel.

"Ukraine is confronting a menacing threat challenging its very existence and in their hour of need, we firmly stand with the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny without Russian interference."

Beyond sanctions, the bill enables the Obama administration to make good on a pledge of $1bn in loan guarantees to Ukraine's new, pro-Western government.

And it would enhance the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund, which some House Republicans oppose.

The House overwhelmingly backed providing only the assistance to Ukraine last week and passed a resolution calling for sanctions on Russia on Tuesday.

Neither included language on the IMF, which the United States, European countries and others are working with to provide billions of dollars in loans to Ukraine's cash-depleted authorities.

The US is the only major country that hasn't signed off on a 2010 package of IMF reforms that increases the power of emerging countries in the lending body and shifts money within its accounts so it can deliver more cash to countries in economic peril.

The bill condemns Russia's "unjustified military intervention" in Crimea and instructs the president to target with visa bans and asset freezes "any person... for ordering, controlling or otherwise directing" acts that undermine Ukraine's sovereignty.

- AP


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