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Senate agrees on new Russia sanctions, limiting Trump’s power to lift them



US senators have reached a wide-ranging bipartisan agreement to impose new sanctions against Russia and limit President Donald Trump’s powers to lift the bans without congressional consent.

The financial penalties target what the lawmakers call “malicious cyber activity” by Russia, referring to the country’s alleged cyber attacks against the Democratic Party in last year’s presidential election.

They also take aim at individuals supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. The bans can also be applied to individuals tied to Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors.

The measures are part of an amendment to a broader anti-Iran bill that proposes a range of non-nuclear sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its defensive missile program.

“It’s as comprehensive as we could make it, and it’s going to be a very good piece of legislation,” Republican Senator Bob Corker told reporters on Monday night, shortly after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally filed the deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (C) speaks the media after attending the Senate Republican policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC,  June 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The new deal also allows Congress to review and even block any future decision by Trump to remove all or part of the anti-Moscow bans within 30 days – or 60 days when Congress goes to recess around August.

It will also systematize previous sanctions put in place through executive orders by former President Barack Obama and allows the Trump administration to slap new economic sanctions on the Kremlin later on.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the deal, saying it would provide the necessary means to “punish” Russian President Vladimir Putin over “for his reckless and destabilizing actions.”

The US and its European allies have imposed a series of financial sanctions against Russian companies and individuals over the country’s alleged role in the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

The new bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin and John McCain, also blasts Russia’s involvement in the years-long conflict in Syria, where Russian military forces have been pounding terrorist positions upon a request from Damascus.

Both the Iran sanctions bill and its Russian amendment are expected to come up for a vote this week.

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