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US Senators Seek Russia Sanctions Over Hacking, Ukraine, Syria

Washington: Senior U.S. Republican and Democratic senators will introduce legislation on Tuesday seeking to impose a wide range of sanctions on Russia over its cyber activities and actions in Syria and Ukraine.

The legislation is sponsored by 10 senators – Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse and Rob Portman and Democrats Ben Cardin, Robert Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen, Amy Klobuchar and Richard Durbin.

The bipartisan support increases the measure’s chances of being passed by the Republican-led Congress. A House of Representatives aide said Russia sanctions legislation also was being prepared in that chamber.

It could set up a showdown with the administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20 and has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The measure is being introduced a day before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds its confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson.

Many lawmakers from both parties have raised questions about the decades Tillerson spent working with Russia’s government as an executive at the oil company, and his ties to Putin. His hearing, set for Wednesday and Thursday, is expected to largely focus on those issues.

According to a preliminary summary seen by Reuters, the bill would impose visa bans and freeze the assets of people “who engage in significant activities undermining the cyber security of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions” or aids such activities.

It would impose sanctions on those who engage with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors, which could affect international companies doing business with Russia. It also puts into law sanctions on Russia that President Barack Obama imposed via executive order late last month.

U.S. lawmakers have long called for a tougher response to Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and intervention in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Their impatience has increased since U.S. intelligence agencies released a non-classified version of a report Friday saying Putin ordered a campaign to try to sway the 2016 U.S. election in favor of Trump.

The bill also sets new sanctions over Ukraine and Syria, including putting into law four executive orders from the Obama administration sanctioning Russia over its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Among other things, it would mandate sanctions on investments of $20 million or more in Russia’s ability to develop its petroleum and natural gas resources.

Source: News18