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U.S. Senate Ukraine bill would impose sanctions on Russia

Source: Reuters - Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:05 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, March 12 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers will consider legislation on Wednesday that would impose strict sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, implement reforms of the International Monetary Fund and provide aid to the new government in Kiev.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill later on Wednesday. Committee members said they thought it would be passed by the panel, then sent on to the full Senate for a vote.

Among other things, the legislation would impose sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians judged to be involved in violence or human rights violations during anti-government protests in Ukraine that began late last year, as well as against anyone involved in undermining Ukraine's security and stability.

The sanctions would include freezing assets held in the United States, travel bans and denying visas, according to a copy of the bill obtained by Reuters.

The legislation also directs U.S. authorities to help Ukraine's new government investigate acts of corruption and return assets to Kiev. And it includes backing for a $1 billion loan guarantee, in addition to millions of dollars in aid.

The bill also includes reforms of the International Monetary Fund, which were requested by the Obama administration but left out of a Ukraine loan guarantee package passed last week by the House of Representatives.

If approved by the full Senate, the bill would have to pass the House to become law. Even if it passes, the bill is not expected to be finalized until later in March; Congress leaves Washington on Friday for a week-long recess.

The Obama administration has been pushing Congress for a year to approve a shift of $63 billion from an IMF crisis fund to its general accounts to maintain U.S. influence at the lender and make good on a commitment from 2010.

Some Republicans worry about the IMF's lending to richer European nations and possible losses on loans by the fund.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he opposed including the IMF reforms in the bill. "This legislation is supposed to be about assisting Ukraine and punishing Russia," he said in a statement.

REPUBLICAN DIVIDE ON IMF

However, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the panel, said he supported the IMF reforms, calling them particularly important as the international community looks to the IMF to help stabilize Ukraine's struggling economy.

He said Washington should make good on its commitment.

"For us to have agreed to IMF reforms and yet not done the funding components necessary, to me is not an appropriate place to be," Corker told reporters. "Especially with this Ukrainian issue, which by the way, is a poster child for why you want the IMF to be functioning fully."

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, also said he backed the IMF reforms. He said he would be making calls to members of his party in the House to persuade them to support the measure.

The House last week passed a bill backing $1 billion in loan reforms for Ukraine that did not contain the IMF reforms or sanctions.

Many U.S. lawmakers have called for sanctions on Moscow over its intervention in Ukraine, but said they would not be effective if Europe, which has far greater economic ties to Russia than the United States, did not also act.

Those concerns could be eased soon.

According to a draft document reviewed by Reuters in Brussels on Monday, European Union member states have agreed on the wording of sanctions on Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes against those responsible for violating Ukraine's sovereignty. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)

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