US Moves One Step Closer To Imposing Fresh Russia Sanctions

The US House of Representatives has voted to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, despite President Donald Trump objecting to the legislation.

Senior officials will be targeted in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the US 2016 election.

The bill is likely to complicate President Trump’s hopes of improving relations with Russia.

Russia said the vote could destroy the possibility of “normalising relations” between the two countries.

The bill needs to be passed through the Senate before it can be sent on to the president to be signed.

The White House says it is reviewing the bill, and it is unclear whether the president will veto it.

“While the president supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president’s desk,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Russia’s relationship with the president has dogged his first six months in office, amid allegations Moscow interfered to help Mr Trump get elected.

Mr Trump has also piled pressure on his attorney general over the Russia inquiry. He has publicly labelled Jeff Sessions “weak” and said he was “disappointed” in Mr Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation.

The legislation, which passed by 419 to three, was described by House Speaker Paul Ryan as a sanctions package that “tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe”.

The sanctions on Russia were drawn up in part to further punish its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. If passed, they would:

* Penalise firms, including those in Europe, that contribute to Russian energy development, affecting companies involved the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany

* Shorten the duration of loans to Russian banks and Russian oil and gas companies

* Codify existing sanctions to make them more difficult to lift in the future

* Stop President Trump being able to singlehandedly ease the sanctions

The US already has a range of sanctions in place against Russian individuals and companies over Crimea.

In December, following claims of election hacking, then-President Barack Obama expelled 35 diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in the US.

The bill will also see fresh sanctions against North Korea and Iran over ballistic missile tests.

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