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18 Junio 2017, 07:04 | Dolorita Barahona
US Senate votes overwhelmingly for tougher Russian sanctions amidst poll meddling probe
The U.S. Senatevoted overwhelmingly Wednesday to punish Russian Federation over its alleged election meddling, passing a bill that would bar President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing existing sanctions on Moscow.
The measure also included language toughening sanctions against Russian Federation in the wake of their accused efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, converting some of the penalties put in place by former President Barack Obama's administration into law, and forbidding Trump from weakening existing Russian Federation sanctions without first seeking Senate approval.
The Senate passed the bill, which also includes additional sanctions on Iran, by an overwhelming 98-2 vote with Sens.
The Senate said the new measures were meant to punish Moscow for Russia's violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity, cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 US elections.
Currently, President Trump could relax the Russian sanctions unilaterally; these provisions would take that power away from him, and force any changes to go through the Congress.
The bill was a response to allegations of Russian interference into the USA presidential election a year ago, allegations Russia has consistently denied.
The measure, attached as an amendment to a broader bill dealing with Iran, firms up existing sanctions against Russian Federation and imposes new ones.
The vote was overshadowed by Wednesday's shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice - two senators were there, Rand Paul and Jeff Flake of Arizona - but the Senate kept on its schedule, and the bill is expected to be passed by the end of the week.
It also aims to punish Russia's Vladimir Putin for interfering in last year's USA election, and to make it tougher for the White House to roll back sanctions. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the plan left him with no good choice. The legislation would expand sanctions for Iranian ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfers of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations. "We believe the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russian Federation to fulfill its commitments".
Sanctions are authorized on Russia's mining and shipping sectors as well, and the government is required to study the US economy's exposure to Russian state-owned enterprises.
But Democrats fear that the White House would be very demanding in its efforts to dilute the legislation.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had agreed "with the sentiment" of holding Russian Federation accountable but had urged Congress not to pass any legislation that could harm a "constructive dialogue" with Moscow. In a televised addressed, he said that sanctions would violate the Iran deal signed by President Obama.
Previously, U.S. energy sanctions had only targeted Russia's future high-tech energy projects, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic, fracking and offshore drilling.
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