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US Senators Back Legislation Strengthening Russia Sanctions


FILE - A sculpture of a double-headed eagle, a national symbol of Russia, is seen in front of a Russian national flag.

A group of U.S. senators agreed Monday on legislation to strengthen sanctions against Russia, including a provision that would require congressional review if the White House relaxed, suspended or terminated sanctions already in place.

The bipartisan agreement comes in the form of an amendment to legislation the Senate is already considering on sanctions for Iran. The bill is expected to have strong support when it goes before the full Senate, and would have to then pass in the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump.

A statement from Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate banking committee said the amendment "expands sanctions against the government of Russia in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyberattacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria."

The measure would strengthen existing sanctions targeting Russian energy projects, while imposing new sanctions on those involved in serious human rights abuses, supplying weapons to the Syrian government, carrying out malicious cyber activities and doing business with Russian intelligence and defense.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Tuesday that Russia takes a negative view of the proposed legislation and would not listen to U.S. calls for the release of political protesters arrested Monday during anti-government demonstrations organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, Russia, June 12, 2017.
Police detain a protester in Moscow, Russia, June 12, 2017.

The anti-corruption rallies took place Monday in cities across Russia. Police arrested 850 people at a protest in Moscow and another 500 in St. Petersburg, where the rallies were unsanctioned.

The U.S. called on Russia to release "peaceful" protesters arrested Monday. Peskov said police acted in accordance with Russian laws and the protesters were engaged in "provocative actions."

The House and Senate, as well as a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, are all investigating Russia's activities related to last year's U.S. elections, as well as potential links to Trump's campaign. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a January report that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign meant to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump's chances of winning.

"These additional sanctions will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished," said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.