U.S. senators introduce bill with new Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday to impose stiff new sanctions on Russia, the latest effort by lawmakers to punish Moscow over interference in U.S. elections and its activities in Syria and Ukraine.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) arrives for a closed-door briefings on Syria for the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The bill includes restrictions on new Russian sovereign debt transactions, energy and oil projects and Russian uranium imports, and new sanctions on Russian political figures and oligarchs.

Russian markets reacted quickly to the bill’s introduction, with the Russian rouble and dollar bonds weakening.

“The current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the measure’s lead sponsors.

Congress passed a Russia sanctions bill last summer but some lawmakers chafed at what they saw as President Donald Trump’s reluctance to implement it; he signed it only after Congress passed it with huge majorities.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said the administration had not fully complied with those sanctions.

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) looks on during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

“This bill is the next step in tightening the screws on the Kremlin and will bring to bear the full condemnation of the United States Congress so that Putin finally understands that the U.S. will not tolerate his behavior any longer,” Menendez said.

Republicans and Democrats were united last month in repudiating Trump’s failure to publicly condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. Still, Congress failed to pass anything before lawmakers left Washington for their weeks-long summer recess.

The latest measure’s prospects were not immediately clear.

It would have to pass both the Senate and House of Representatives and be signed by Trump to become law.

Aides to the Senate’s Republican Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, referred a question about the bill to the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over sanctions matters. A committee spokeswoman said she had no details on what measures the panel might consider.

Last month, McConnell said Senate committees should hold hearings on legislation to stop Russia from any future election meddling.

At the time, he specifically mentioned a different bill, introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, that would impose stiff sanctions on key Russian economic sectors if Moscow was found to have interfered again in a U.S. election.

Both the Banking and Foreign Relations Committees have since scheduled hearings relating to Russia.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; additional reporting by Rick Cowan; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas

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